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"Wit! Snark! Underdogs! Lesbians!"


Slushpile is a comedic web series about a group of thirty-something artists attempting to run a literary journal from a house in the woods. The show centers around Wrenn Munsinger (portrayed by Jen Wicks), an introverted novelist who struggles with legitimizing her magazine, Three-Master, while navigating the barely-existent local LGBTQ dating scene. She and the rest of the journal's staff - Punter, Sydney, and Jessica - frequently find themselves in crazy situations (including a LARP) in pursuit of the good of the journal.
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The series consists of short (generally between 5 and 10 minutes) episodes, and contains frequent references to and/or spoofs of literature and pop culture. Additionally, the episode titles are all named after books.


Examples of tropes found in this series include:

  • Abusive Dad: Alluded to in Emerson's comment that Wrenn's constant walking away reminds her of her dad.
  • The Ace:
    • Clyde in "Lord of the Flies." Everyone wants him on their team, and he knows it, which is why he registers solo. He even outsmarts and defeats most of the people he joins. His Fatal Flaw is another trope, the Fallacy of the Talking Killer, which Wrenn points out later.
    • Colleen in "To the Lighthouse." Apparently, she was not only good-looking and all that, but started a successful journal when she was a grad student, all the professors adored her, and she went on to win a big literature prize, leaving Wrenn behind. On top of all that, Wrenn still thinks fondly of her.
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  • A Darker Me: Part of the appeal of the LARP game in "Lord of the Flies" is that everyone can take on alternate and more exaggerated versions of their personalities. Sig probably changes the most here, going from cheerful and cutesy to a Red-Wedding-Planner with Viking gear and red scars across her face, leading a group called The Bastard’s Bastards. Oddly enough, Wrenn and Sig finally confront their real feelings about one another when they’re wearing costumes.
  • Affably Evil: Sig and Maximus in "Lord of the Flies."
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Sig refers to Punter as "Punt," which no one else does, not even Wrenn.
    • Nellie refers to Sydney as "Titmouse," though the latter doesn't understand why.
  • Agree to Disagree: In "Brave New World," Punter thinks the meeting with the Editors could have gone better (an understatement, given that Wrenn lost the deal because she exploded at them). Wrenn says she doesn't think so, implying that Three-Master is better off on its own. Punter just shrugs.
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  • Alas, Poor Villain: No one really wants Clyde to win, but it’s still sort of sad that he won’t be able to open his choreography school. The fact that the scene is shot similar to Boromir’s death in The Lord of the Rings is probably a big reason for that.
  • As You Know: Punter pulls this word-for-word when he's trying to take a leadership role in Wrenn's absence, but Sydney calls him on it when he states a bunch of stuff she not only knows already, but that Wrenn left for them in writing.
  • Bad Boss: For some reason, Sig doesn't let her minions eat lunch until Punter shows up.
  • Bald of Evil: J.J. Dunphy.
  • Batman Gambit: Emerson’s plan to gain Wrenn’s trust relies almost entirely upon Wrenn reacting how Emerson expects her to, which includes pretending not to know how Wrenn will react.
  • Beard of Evil: Dunphy again.
  • Big Bad: Depends on your perspective, maybe, but Sig sets herself up to play this role in season 1, despite her motivations being simply to have a good time with her sister. Punter even foreshadows this at the beginning, when he compliments her hammy pitching of the LARP with “Nice arch-villain.”
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • In "Brave New World," Wrenn doesn't get the deal for the journal, but seeing her dish it to the Editors is extremely satisfying.
    • In "Lord of the Flies," Wrenn and Sig make up, but no one in the main cast receives the prize money so Three-Master is still where it was at the beginning.
  • Book-Ends: The pilot episode and the finale both involve an outsider in the group trying to fit in and mostly being ignored (in the pilot, it’s Sydney, and in the finale it’s Emerson). Each episode involves the person clapping once when they’re not sure how to respond to something. Additionally, Punter’s “I respect that” to Sydney is echoed by Emerson in this one.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Stinger of "To the Lighthouse" involves Nellie “reviewing” the season of the show you’ve just watched, in which she is a character. She even refers to the show by name, which isn’t done up until this point. The whole thing pokes fun at YouTube reviews of TV shows.
  • Brick Joke: Punter’s desire to insert a Long John Silver quote into a real conversation, claiming it makes everything more awesome. He doesn’t succeed in "Treasure Island," but it comes back in “Gilgamesh": Punter says “Them that die’ll be the lucky ones!” just before Sig stabs him. He seems satisfied with it, though whether it made the situation “awesome” is up for debate.
  • Broken Pedestal: Subverted. Wrenn refers to the Editors as “literary dignitaries” that she looks up to, but when they take their criticism of her journal one insult too far, she reveals that she always knew they were talentless assholes, and had a lot of ammo stored up for a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • The Cameo: In "All Passion Spent," many real-life writers appear to read their manuscript rejections. Also appearing are Val Carias from Because Geek, and two characters who will appear in significant ways later: Nellie and Vince.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Nellie's crush on Wrenn takes center-stage in what is supposed to be a rejection letter.
  • Captain Obvious: In "All Passion Spent," Sydney argues against personal rejections by stating that they are "so...personal."
  • Chewing the Scenery:
    • In the episode "In a Grove," Punter enters the basement, shouting and making large gestures. Wrenn points to her tooth and says, "You've got a little...scenery."
    • In the above episode, Gabby is also guilty of this.
    • Nellie spends most of the "Neuromancer" episode doing this.
    • Heather, pretty much every time she says anything.
    • Clyde's borderline insane monologue in "Gilgamesh."
  • The Chew Toy: Not a whole lot goes right for Wrenn in season 1.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: In "Lord of the Flies," Clyde betrays or abandons nearly everyone we see onscreen, including Sig, the Strike-Back Empire, the Frodo-Bombs, and the Dystopian Sisterhood.
  • Cliffhanger: "Lord of the Flies" ends with the revelation that Sig has taken over Three-.Master HQ, leads the most powerful team in the game, and has Punter trapped.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In "Pride and Prejudice," Punter asks Wrenn not to generalize, then makes a generalization himself. When called on this, Punter says, "I hate all generalizations."
  • Combat Pragmatist: Moe knows that all she needs to do to win the LARP is grab the Sword of Truth and run. too bad no one else read the rules.
  • Credits Gag: Mid-credits in the "Treasure Island" episode, it’s mentioned that the fictional story treatment for a Jacky Faber TV show actually exists. This mention ends with “Your move, HBO.”
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In "Lord of the Flies," Sydney can't even put up a fight against Moe and Clyde.
  • The Determinator: Clyde is pretty intent on defeating Wrenn and Sig, but can’t quite do it when they’re working together.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • The Black Ghost is considered this by most of the LAR Pers.
    • As badass as Clyde is, much of his strategy for survival involves retreating. Showcased when he shoves Sydney into Moe’s path, then runs away.
    • Moe runs away from the final battle, but there’s another reason: she’s got hold of the Sword of Truth, and is the only one who knows the rules of the game. There’s no longer a need to fight.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The Frodo-Bombs act as this in "Lord of the Flies," even though they’re the first enemies we see Wrenn’s group fight. Chronologically, it happens several hours after the game has begun, and ends a long-standing feud that gives way to the real antagonists: Sig’s group and Clyde.
  • Double Entendre: It’s unclear at what point Sydney begins doing it on purpose, but in the "Moby-Dick" episode, the names of nearly every restaurant she mentions are euphemisms for “vagina.”
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The “Writers Read Insipid Rejections” segment is deliberately similar to Celebrities Read Mean Tweets.
    • The format of the Editors TV show heavily resembles Shark Tank.
    • The entire plot of the "Wuthering Heights" episode is based on the Best American Poetry controversy in 2015.
  • Don't Explain the Joke:
    • In "Pride and Prejudice":
    Wrenn: "I'm still sore from Dix." -Sydney and Punter laugh- "What?"
    Sydney: "It's funny because you don't like them."
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In "Treasure Island," Sydney was apparently going to kill Punter with an axe for annoying her.
  • Dramatic Irony: In "The Awakening," Wrenn enters her office and accidentally crushes/covers a note with her name on it. By the time we see who leaves the note (Emerson) and what it's for, we already know that Wrenn is never going to see it.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Nellie refers to Sydney as "Titmouse," but doesn't explain why.
  • Feminist Fantasy: Most of the main and supporting characters, including anyone who's in charge of anything, are women.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Pretty much everyone in The Stinger of "Lord of the Flies."
  • Foe Yay: Sig and Punter twice allude to something that happened between them in the past, and Clyde states that the two "had something good back in the day."
  • Foil:
    • Wrenn to Sig, in basically every way.
    • Gabby to Sydney. Both spend lots of time on their phones, but Gabby uses hers to acquire information vital to Wrenn’s evening things out with Heather, whereas Syd often uses her phone for assorted silliness that doesn’t mean anything.
    • Clyde to Punter. They’re old coworkers and buddies, but Clyde’s role in the game is completely self-serving (he even registers solo so that he won’t have to split the money with anyone), while Punter deliberately walks into a trap so that Wrenn won’t.
    • Jessica to Emerson. Emerson tries to help Wrenn by repeatedly deceiving her, while Jessica's straightforwardness gets her a lot farther.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • In "Brave New World": Berneau’s offensive tweets, Cleaver’s misogynistic and nearly identical book synopses, and a school syllabus with one of Dunphy’s works listed as an assignment.
    • In "All Passion Spent," Wrenn's email inbox contains everything from what music she's downloaded to foreshadowing of what's to come in later episodes.
    • The cork-board behind the table in pretty much every episode.
    • In "Treasure Island," Punter's treatment for an HBO series briefly appears on the screen.
    • In "Lord of the Flies," the LARP rulebook contains several hilarious team names and their team mottos. Three-Master's team is called "The Strike-Back Empire," and their motto is "Three masts, zero fucks."
  • Fridge Brilliance: How does Punter see the "Red Wedding" coming? For one thing, he knows Sig very well, but he also works for a literary journal: he’s very well-read.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • In "Lord of the Flies," Punter knows when a "red wedding" is about to happen, and what walking into a trap in a fantasy setting entails. He also seems to know that Wrenn is the protagonist of this story.
    • Moe is well aware that Wrenn and co. probably don’t care who she is (and that the audience, involved in Wrenn’s story, feels similarly), so she forgoes explaining her backstory in favor of getting on with the fight. She's also the only one who knows how to win the game.
  • The Ghost: Sig is first mentioned in episode 3, and doesn't show up until episode 10.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": Sydney and Punter are overly amused at Wrenn's unfortunate use of the word "Dix."
  • Heroic BSoD: Wrenn has one in the back of Punter's car in "In a Grove."
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Punter knows he’s walking into a trap, but he “dies” in order to spare Wrenn walking into it. Not for lack of trying to survive, though.
  • Hero of Another Story:
    • Moe. She wins the LARP solo, but is never explored in much depth because the main characters don’t know her.
    • The extras we see battling each other could be considered this. They certainly seem to have their own epic rivalries and take the game as seriously as everyone else, despite not interacting with the main cast.
  • Homage:
    • The "In a Grove" episode is named after the short story that inspired Rashomon, and offers tribute to that film, as well as those that use similar flashback structure, such as ''Reservoir Dogs.''
    • The scene in the car is very similar to Tim Roth bleeding in the backseat in Reservoir Dogs.
    • The episode "The Princess Bride" is an obvious one. The Battle of Wits, a squabble over what a word means, the “before this but after that” exchange, and the “there will be joy” line are all loving homages to Goldman’s classic. In addition, the cork-board content in this episode is just a bunch of notes on the novel itself.
    • "To the Lighthouse" is a pretty big one to Life is Strange.
  • Ho Yay: Wrenn is a lesbian, so it comes with the territory.
  • I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That: Said by Berneau after Wrenn’s tirade. Wrenn doesn’t let her not hear it, though.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Sydney (by Moe), Punter (by Sig), and Clyde (by Wrenn).
  • Improbable Age: Berneau mentions having a one year-old grandson. The actress who plays Berneau is in her thirties.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Most of the team names in "Lord of the Flies."
  • Irony: In "Lives of Girls and Women, Wrenn is distracted from her novel due to the fallout of a nasty blog post about her by a famous writer. Jessica and Punter attempt to help by inspiring her to write a counter-essay to the blog, and her essay goes viral, which makes her feel better but continues to distract her from her novel.
    • In "Alamut," Jessica gets Punter to combat plagiarism by giving a speech that more or less plagiarizes Ezio's big speech from Assassins Creed 2.
  • Lame Comeback:
    • In "To the Lighthouse":
    Emerson: "Explain it to me in a way that doesn't make you sound like an eight year-old."
    Punter: "...I don't have to do that."
    • Punter again in "Things Fall Apart."
    Sig: "Great speech."
    Punter: "Great attitude."
    Sig: "Great maturity."
    Punter: "Great double-standard."
    Sig: "Great...face!"
    Punter: "Great...Expectations!" (storms off)
  • Large Ham: Nellie and Heather, always. Sig and Clyde in "Gilgamesh."
  • Leaning Onthe Fourth Wall: It might just be part of Sydney’s idiosyncratic personality, but she tells Wrenn that her behavior “seems pretty consistent with her character thus far,” and that Sydney herself prefers to reveal things about herself naturally, rather than when “a moment of plot contrivance calls for it.”
  • McGuffin: The Sword of Truth in "Lord of the Flies."
  • Mythology Gag: Fictional writer R.J. Harrington is taken from one of Richard Hartshorn’s short stories, “Bloodmeal.” Nellie is also mentioned in this story.
  • Nasty Party: What Sig uses to eliminate Punter (and probably others) from the LARP. When Punter sees it coming, Sig angrily states that “You can’t even Red Wedding anyone anymore.”
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In "Wuthering Heights," Wrenn accidentally awards the poetry prize to a white man pretending to be a Chinese person, and fears being scrutinized by the literary community and losing credibility over it. She fixes the issue in a way that satisfies her, but which may have worse consequences later.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Wrenn's apparently disastrous attempt to woo a girl named Joan.
    • Also, the incident with the monkey bars in third grade, in which Wrenn somehow “saved” Punter, starting their friendship.
    • Whatever happened between Sig and Punter in the past. It's alluded to in "Lord of the Flies," "Gilgamesh," "Things Fall Apart," and "Jane Eyre," but Punter always avoids talking about it (he even goes as far as making Jessica go off on a tangential diatribe about The Lord of the Rings so she'll forget she asked about Punter and Sig).
  • Night Mare Sequence: Most of the "Neuromancer" episode, which involes Nellie basically revealing all of Wrenn's fears.
  • No One Sees the Boss: Seems to be the policy at Sig’s HQ, with Maximus acting as mouthpiece, until someone shows up that she wants to talk to directly.
  • No Periods, Period:
    • Averted in "Wuthering Heights." Wrenn mentions her menstrual cycle when predicting what insults Vince will use on her.
    • In the season 2 episode "The Bloody Chamber," Jessica mentions being on her period.
  • Off with His Head!: In "Lord of the Flies," Moe executes one of the Frodo-Bombs this way.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • In "Brave New World," Punter and Sydney share one when they both realize Wrenn is about to start yelling.
    • In "Lord of the Flies," Maximus has one when he realizes that Clyde's flying attack is about to hit him.
    • Also Sydney when she realizes she is cornered by Moe and Clyde.
  • Older Than They Look: Actress Joyce Hausermann is in her mid-twenties, but Emerson looks much younger, even with the glasses and shawl.
  • Once per Episode: Blackberry the rabbit's appearances, and the "Apologies to..." segment at the end of the credits.
  • Overly Long Gag: In "Pride and Prejudice," Wrenn slowly drinking Sydney's soda while Sydney looks like a punished child.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Georgia Berneau, in both tweets and speech, makes tasteless references to Nazis, Hitler, China, women, and thinks rich people can't be evil.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Nellie in "Neuromancer."
    Nellie: "Because I'm me, and this is Space fucking Tornado..."
    • In the Lauren O'Connell song at the end of "To the Lighthouse."
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    • In "Treasure Island."
    Wrenn: "Who do you ship?"
    Punter: "I'd rather not - "
    Wrenn: "WHO. DO. YOU. SHIP?!"
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Given that "In a Grove" is based on the story that movie is based on, this is a no-brainer. The episode involves characters remembering the same event differently, among other things.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Wrenn gives an epic one to the Editors, in which she refers to Cleaver as an “illiterate Jack White ripoff,” Dunphy as a “faux-it-all hack,” and that she would only do Berneau’s deal in an alternate universe where Wrenn’s goal was to be the biggest stooge in the literary community. It costs Wrenn her dream of getting the journal to AWP, but she seems okay with that in the end.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Gabby has known Wrenn for years and is in monthly contact with her, but she is never mentioned before episode 6, when she's already there.
  • The Resenter: Wrenn can't get over how much easier Sig's had it.
  • The Reveal:
    • In "In a Grove," it's revealed that Wrenn and Heather have annual “duels” where they try to outwit one another, calling into question how much certain characters knew at various points in the narrative.
    • In "The Princess Bride," it turns out that Emerson put water in both cups.
    • In "Lord of the Flies," Emerson was the Black Ghost all along.
    • The Sword of Truth is actually a toy Wrenn and Sig used to fight over as children.
    • To win the LARP, all you had to do was bring the Sword of Truth across the property line, not kill everyone else. Apparently no one read the rules (can’t really blame them: it was a 60-page rulebook).
    • In "The Awakening," Emerson is the one who left the note for Wrenn. Also, Emerson's motivations in the previous season come to light.
    • Sig set up the entire LARP just to have fun with Wrenn.
    • In The Stinger of "The Handmaid's Tale," it's revealed that Wrenn's novel is eventually published.
  • Serious Business: The entire LARP game. Everyone commits, even to the point of adhering to the honor system: no one is there to enforce the rules, but everyone still “dies” when hit.
    • Also the water gun fight in "The Awakening." Everyone threateningly holds the guns as though something other than a light stream of lukewarm water is going to come out.
  • Shout-Out: Tons.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Wrenn and Sig’s attitude when Clyde starts going on about the stories the “future market-goers” will tell their children.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Nellie.
  • Straight Gay: Wrenn.
  • Stylistic Suck: Art Cleaver's novels. Their titles are "Slug City," "Slug Nation," and "Slug Planet," and literally every plot summary begins with the phrase "One man must..." and depicts women as sexist caricatures. The intention here is made clear when Wrenn refers to Cleaver's books as "misogynistic, write-by-numbers, wastes of paper."
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial
    • Sydney in "All Passion Spent."
    Sydney: "Don't give me that 'Your journal was destined to become a flaming bumper-magnet because you treated contributors like turds' look."
    • Sydney again in "The Princess Bride."
    Wrenn: "Any messages?"
    Sydney: "Totally not anything from your sister that I opened and then marked as new."
  • Take That!:
    • To Pat Sajak in "Wuthering Heights":
    Emerson: Weird Al works with an accordion, and Vanna White works with Pat Sajak, both of which are enormous bags of air."
    • To Nicholas Sparks:
    Vince: "Drop the notebook."
    Wrenn: "I wish someone would have given me that advice in '96, am I right?"
    Vince: "Respectable burn."
    • To the History Channel:
    Wrenn: "You want me to make up some crap and hope gullible idiots believe it? What am I, the History Channel?"
    • To Family Feud in "In a Grove":
    Punter: "Are you the host of Family Feud?"
    Wrenn: "No."
    Punter: "Then your career isn't over. Relax."
    • To Ayn Rand in "The Princess Bride":
    Emerson: "Big journals send form rejection letters, but their Masthead’s personal junk is left on the table like cold Brussels sprouts or a copy of Atlas Shrugged at a garage sale.”
  • Tear Jerker: "No need to hurt anyone."
  • That Came Out Wrong: After climbing Dix Mountain, Wrenn says,“I’m still sore from Dix.” Sydney and Punter don’t let it go.
  • There's No Kill Like Overkill: During the "Lord of the Flies" montage, one of the Frodo-Bombs is hit in the neck with a throwing knife, bashed in the face with nunchaku, and then "decapitated" by Moe.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Clyde turns his back on armed opponents in order to give a ridiculous, mostly nonsensical monologue.
  • Unrequited Love: Maybe it isn’t love, but Emerson doesn’t return whatever Wrenn’s feelings are.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Gabby and Punter’s reaction to Wrenn’s stint as a romance-fantasy writer and her failure to cover it up, which is now putting all of their careers in jeopardy.
  • You're Not My Type: Said in another way: Wrenn asks Emerson for a kiss, and Emerson asks if they can hug instead.
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