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Ambiguous Name: Frickin Laser Beams

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Sep 18th 2019 at 7:51:05 PM

Frickin' Laser Beams is defined by the Laconic as "Laser beams depicted as slower-than-light energy bullets." The description's first paragraph focuses on this; subsequent paragraphs also mention their being non-lethal and having knockback and recoil, but it's not very clear about whether those are required properties for an example to count, or just properties often associated with the trope but not strictly required in every example.

I was very surprised to find this out when I took the unorthodox action of actually reading the trope description. From the trope name and seeing it potholed around the wiki, I always assumed it was just a general trope for laser guns.

(It turns out we actually have that; Energy Weapon as a Super-Trope for energy weapons in general, and Ray Gun for the handheld version.)

Curious, I decided to do a wick check to see if this was just me being dense, or evidence of a problem that goes beyond just me. I examined 50 randomly-chosen wicks and tried to sort them into the following frickin' categories:

  • General Energy Weapons (GEW) - Appears to be using Frickin' Laser Beams as a synonym for any kind of Energy Weapon or Ray Gun, whether it moves as a slow projectile or has other unrealistic properties or not.
  • Slow Lasers (SL) - Appears to be using the trope according to its Laconic definition and the first paragraph of the trope description, meaning an Energy Weapon that fires slower-than-light projectiles.
  • Unrealistic Lasers (UL) - Refers to an Energy Weapon with other unrealistic properties besides the speed of the projectile, including lack of lethality, knockback, or recoil.
  • Potholes (PH) - Potholes or otherwise uses the trope name in passing in such a way that it is difficult or impossible to determine what the implied definition is.
  • ZCE - Lists the trope as an example on a work page, but has insufficient context. (Entries with enough context to establish that it's an Energy Weapon but no more are listed under GEW.)

Frickin' Wick Check:

Frickin' Results:

  • General Energy Weapons: 17/50, or 34%
  • Slow Lasers: 8/50, or 16%
  • Unrealistic Lasers: None
  • Potholes: 18/50, or 36%
  • ZCEs: 7/50, or 14%

Frickin' Analysis:

We've got over twice as many wicks that seem to be using Frickin' Laser Beams to refer to any kind of Energy Weapon or Ray Gun as those that are using it according to its actual definition.

That's not counting potholes / passing mentions or ZCEs, which nearly always appeared to be speaking about Energy Weapons in general, being used in contexts where the speed or realism of the weapon was irrelevant. For the sake of objectivity, however, I categorized such wicks neutrally unless I had something concrete to point to suggesting otherwise.

I suspect that many wicks use FLB over Energy Weapon or Ray Gun simply because it's a memorable trope name or as an all-purpose intensifier, to give the attack, weapon, or character being described a more "badass" flavor.

I was unable to find any examples of the trope being used to refer to the other properties of fictional lasers mentioned in the trope description besides acting as a slow projectile.

Frickin' Recommendation:

We already have two perfectly good tropes that cover the misuse, so redefining the trope to match the misuse strikes me as a bad option.

The concept itself seems perfectly tropeworthy, so cutting or merging seems like a bad idea too.

That leaves renaming; as much as I like a good Dr. Evil reference, something more on the "clear" side of Clear, Concise, Witty seems called for, even if it winds up being a little boring. I'd suggest either Slow Lasers or maybe Laser Projectiles.

I'd also suggest tweaking the trope description slightly to make it clear that a laser moving at sublight speed and acting as a projectile is the core definition, and the other properties described are often associated but not necessary to count.

Edited by HighCrate on Sep 19th 2019 at 2:11:04 AM

Berrenta Vio Rhyse Alberia from Texas Relationship Status: Can't buy me love
Feb 23rd 2020 at 1:33:58 PM

Sorry for the long wait, ~High Crate.

Wick check looks good, so opened for discussion.

TRS needs your help!
Feb 23rd 2020 at 3:08:31 PM


I'm still in favor of a rename, but I'd be interested in hearing if there are other perspectives.

WarJay77 A purebread purebred from The Void Relationship Status: Armed with the Power of Love
A purebread purebred
Feb 23rd 2020 at 3:10:30 PM

Yeah, a rename sounds good.

Current Project: Uncanny Valley
Florien The They who said it from a backsliding democracy Relationship Status: not set
The They who said it
Feb 23rd 2020 at 3:24:04 PM

The name doesn't make it clear what it is. I'm also for a rename.

Brainulator9 Short-Term Projects herald from US Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
Short-Term Projects herald
Feb 23rd 2020 at 3:35:21 PM

Rename the current trope; should the current page become a disambiguation page?

Contains 20% less fat than the leading value brand!
Florien The They who said it from a backsliding democracy Relationship Status: not set
The They who said it
Feb 23rd 2020 at 7:18:42 PM

What would it disambiguate? Also, if, (and presumably when, given the direction so far), we should go for a rename, the trope seems to be lasers behaving like standard firearm projectiles, so perhaps something along the lines of Lasers Are Bullets?

Feb 23rd 2020 at 7:26:01 PM

[up] It would disambiguate between Energy Weapon (which it's very often misused as) and whatever we rename this abomination to.

I especially like how the trope's description states that the Trope Namer involves realistic, light-speed laser beams. So we have a trope whose name doesn't represent what it's about, referencing something that's not an example. Who the hell thought this was a good idea, even by Old!TV Tropes' laxer standards?!

I mentioned in that trope's thread that Crazy Awesome is possibly the most obtuse and unclear trope name on the site, but Frickin' Laser Beams is another strong contender.

I'm 100% behind a rename.

Edited by Zuxtron on Feb 23rd 2020 at 10:29:19 AM

Feb 23rd 2020 at 7:30:21 PM

In favor of rename. Should it also be mentioned in the Artistic License – Physics trope page? Guns Do Not Work That Way is an index, but do the Lasers have enough subdivisions, like listed in the first post?

Slow Laser Beams, Lasers Do Not Work That Way, Hollywood Lasers, Variable Speed Lasers, Hard Light Lasers, Impossibly Slow Lasers, Selective Speed Lasers.

Edited by ImaginationStarts on Feb 23rd 2020 at 10:34:22 AM

Florien The They who said it from a backsliding democracy Relationship Status: not set
The They who said it
Feb 23rd 2020 at 8:02:15 PM

[up][up] I'd like to think that with the new trope name, there would be no need for disambiguation, but having seen the levels of misuse that occurs due to people only reading trope names and not descriptions, I would be behind one if it should come to be needed.

WarJay77 A purebread purebred from The Void Relationship Status: Armed with the Power of Love
A purebread purebred
Feb 23rd 2020 at 8:04:33 PM

I mean, we might as well with all the laser-themed tropes we have.

Current Project: Uncanny Valley
Feb 23rd 2020 at 8:49:07 PM

I'm for renaming, moving examples to appropriate tropes, and making Frickin' a disambig to various laser beam tropes. That's what it's used for already. Can't cut it with 12,000 inbounds... and this is a doozy at 3244 articles.

Feb 24th 2020 at 2:49:09 AM

I do wanna note that Particle Weapon is also another option. Shows like Gundam and Star Trek choose to explain away their 'slow lasers' as actually Particle streams and blasts.

TNG for example actually states in an episode that 'lasers' are ancient 'weapons' hundreds of years behind 'nadion-based particle weapons' aka Phasers. And there are 13 different varieties of particle weapons in use by the various factions and races in Star Trek such as Polaron used by Jem'Hadar.

Feb 24th 2020 at 4:16:08 PM

You bring up a good point: there are times in which lasers are treated as slower-than-light projectiles with no in-universe explanation, and there are times when it's Hand Waved by saying, "Oh, those aren't LASERS, those are 'particle weapons' (or blasters, phasers, whatever) and those act DIFFERENT."

Personally, I think both unexplained entries and those with Hand Waves should count; it's not distinct enough to make them two different tropes, and it's not always readily apparent which one applies. However, if that's the case, the definition should be tweaked to make it clear that both versions count (it could use some streamlining anyway; it's pretty long-winded as of right now), and we should choose a name that can apply to either version.

Maybe something like Energy Projectiles.

Edited by HighCrate on Feb 24th 2020 at 4:17:06 AM

Feb 24th 2020 at 5:44:13 PM

Energy Projectiles imply balls of energy. ‘Laser Blasts’ would fall under that. Star Trek Voyager’s Compression Rifle blasts and DS 9’s Defiant’s Quad Phaser Cannons would be more that. Those are more of a related trope than what this trope covers.

Particle weapons that ‘’look’’ like slow moving laser beams are more ‘streams of particles’. Like Star Trek’s traditional phaser beams and Ghostbusters Proton Packs are identical in that way. cool

Spark9 Gentleman Troper! from Castle Wulfenbach Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
Gentleman Troper!
Feb 25th 2020 at 3:51:43 AM

I like the name Slow Laser Beam.

And yes, a slow laser and a "let's call it something else" handwave are the same trope. There's probably a joke here somewhere considering light is both a (hand)wave and a (beam)particle...

Rhetorical, eh? ... Eight!
Feb 25th 2020 at 6:53:26 AM

Particle Beam Weapon is the name used on the Other Wiki, I would go with that name for those.

Tts legit science btw, the US military experimented with a 'hydrogen beam weapon' in Los Alamos in 1989. [1]. Its NOT a Handwave.

Another real life name for these are 'Directed Energy Weapon'.

Edited by Memers on Feb 25th 2020 at 6:56:14 AM

Spark9 Gentleman Troper! from Castle Wulfenbach Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
Gentleman Troper!
Feb 25th 2020 at 7:20:35 AM

[up] But that doesn't describe the trope well; it has the same issue as the current name (which gets misused for "list of every energy weapon in fiction").

The trope is "energy weapons move a lot slower than the speed of light (and a lot slower than bullets in the same show) and can be dodged after they are fired".

Hence, Slow Lasers.

Rhetorical, eh? ... Eight!
Feb 25th 2020 at 7:37:01 AM

Except a Particle Beam Weapon / Directed Energy Weapon is a trope in of itself, and where 90% of the examples listed go, and are NOT Artistic License Slow Lasers.

The actual Slow Lasers would be for literal Artistic License 'Slow Lasers'. Visible Laser Beams also probably fall under that trope too.

This trope is on the Artistic License – Physics page but Particle Beam Weapon / Directed Energy Weapon examples are not that, its real science.

Edited by Memers on Feb 25th 2020 at 7:43:03 AM

Spark9 Gentleman Troper! from Castle Wulfenbach Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
Gentleman Troper!
Feb 25th 2020 at 8:00:45 AM

Ok, so we're talking about two different things.

Slow Lasers is clearly a trope (and matches the description of Frickin' Laser Beams, but not its content). We should create this.

Particle Beam Weapon is also a trope, although I'm not sure how it's distinct from existing tropes Energy Weapon, Ray Gun, or a gun that shoots energy balls (covered under Energy Ball).

Edited by Spark9 on Feb 25th 2020 at 8:00:56 AM

Rhetorical, eh? ... Eight!
frodobatmanvader a Xeno Drac of Outworld from Squaresville Relationship Status: Complex: I'm real, they are imaginary
a Xeno Drac of Outworld
Feb 25th 2020 at 6:34:12 PM

I like the idea of Freakin' Lazer Beams being a disambig, and this trope being renamed to Slow Laser Beams. FLB is practically memetic in terms of wiks, so ditching it outright is unrealistic, and we appear to have enough laser-related tropes that a disambig seems needed, anyhow. Slow Laser Beams concisely demonstrates what the trope properly is, so it seems like it will at least guide potholers to pothole the trope correctly.

GastonRabbit Wiki Walker from Robinson, Illinois, USA Relationship Status: I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me
Feb 25th 2020 at 9:48:50 PM

I'm fine with Frickin' Laser Beams being a disambiguation page. We didn't invent the name; it's an Austin Powers reference (the disambiguation page could point to the page for that series). As for this trope, I'm fine with Slow Lasers.

Edited by GastonRabbit on Feb 25th 2020 at 11:53:37 AM

"I am Ferdinand von Aegir." —Ferdinand von Aegir
Feb 29th 2020 at 3:27:04 PM

General sentiment seems to be running toward renaming the trope and repurposing the Frickin' Laser Beams name as a disambiguation page (presumably between the renamed trope and Energy Weapons, Ray Gun, and maybe a couple of others).

I move that we put it to a single-issue crowner to clearly show consensus before moving on.

Edited by HighCrate on Feb 29th 2020 at 3:27:15 AM

WarJay77 A purebread purebred from The Void Relationship Status: Armed with the Power of Love
A purebread purebred
Mar 1st 2020 at 5:17:34 PM

Should we also create a page called Slow Lasers or something similar to cover what the page was originally about if it gets turned into an index?

PageAction: FrickinLaserBeams2
8th Mar '20 6:55:02 PM

Crown Description:

What should be done with Frickin Laser Beams?

Total posts: 148