Published in the Los Angeles Times
Some people take care of orchids. Others take care of guinea pigs. Barbara takes care of tropes.
Most of the day she's a 51-year-old seamstress in Illinois and a caregiver for her husband. But in her spare time, Barbara tends to four tropes: "Cool Bike," "Badass Longcoat," "You Fail Logic Forever" and "Silly Reason for War."
"They were a mess, they needed to be cleaned up, and nobody else was doing it, so I adopted them," she says. "It's equivalent of wiping down the sink every morning after I brush my teeth."
Her obsession takes place at the website TV Tropes (tvtropes.org), a catalog of thousands of pop culture tropes -- conventions or devices that pop up repeatedly in storytelling. Each trope has a Web page listing examples, not only from television but also film, theater, literature, comic books, professional wrestling and other media.
TV Tropes is a wiki -- a site anyone in the world can contribute to and edit, like Wikipedia. Since its founding in 2004, more than 42,000 people have volunteered to be "tropers" like Barbara -- a mixture of fans, writers, educators and amateur academics smitten by pop culture and accessing their inner Joseph Campbell. The site now gets more than 2 million unique visitors a month, according to Google Analytics.