It’s the complete results of the Fansplaining Fic Preferences Survey! What were the tropes people loved? The ones they hated? The ones everyone was like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ about? GO FIND OUT NOW!
OK, but here’s the aspect of the data never acknowledged in the article (I don’t mean this in a bad way, but in a “huh, that’s interesting…” way).
They give results for which tropes etc. were most-loved (people said “yay”), most-hated (people said “nay”), most controversial (similar numbers of yay/nay), etc. But to hate something, you have to know what it is! This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have actually read much or any of it, but if you’ve never heard of omega-verse it seems unlikely to me that you’d have strong feelings about it. (And “meh” was a response option, it’s not like respondents had to pick either thumbs-up or thumbs-down.)
Of course, some things are pretty obvious: I don’t have to have ever read or heard of a fic with major character death to have a pretty good idea what that means, and to have a sense of whether I want to read that kind of fic. (I might be inaccurate, but I’ll probably have *an* idea.)
But here’s the other part of the equation: they didn’t ask about random stuff; they asked about tropes people actually name in fic tags. (I don’t remember if it says how they picked which things to ask about on the survey, but eyeball test suggests they pulled them from some source of “well-agreed-on fandom knowledge.”) Again, you could maybe argue that something like “major character death” could be a thing people cared about enough to make a tag so people could avoid it, but no one ever writes it. But “coffeeshop AU” or “centaurifiation”?? If the survey authors picked it, they picked it from somewhere and thought it was a thing people might care about–which means it’s being written, or at least talked about.
So here’s my thought: all those “most hated” tropes must have a reasonably substantial body of work out there, and/or get talked about a lot (and why would people talk about them so much if no one was actually writing them?). And *that* means *somebody* likes those tropes–likes them enough to write them. And not just in a fandom-of-one sort of way.
So I think anything that’s hated must, to some degree, be controversial.
But, according to this survey, not necessarily in the sense of having about the same number of proponents and detractors. Still, there must be critical mass of proponents and they must be writing loudly enough to be heard by the community.
(A complicating factor might be that the body of fic spans time and place. Maybe centaurification was really popular in the mid-1990s and today’s 20-something fans are shaking their heads and going “ew, why was *that* a thing??”)
Good thinking! Some clarifications/more information:
How we picked tropes: We picked the tropes based on a combination of sources: the tropes list on Fanlore, other tropes lists elsewhere on the internet, the most-used tags on AO3 and keywords used on Wattpad and <a href="http://Fanfiction.net" rel="nofollow">Fanfiction.net</a>, and our own experience. You’re quite right to say that all the tropes we ask about, someone is writing!
Whether people knew what they were voting on: Just to make sure it’s clear for people who might not have looked at the whole data set… “I don’t know what this is” was an option for all of the questions. On the “most controversial” graph you can see that it’s there in light grey. A fair number of people didn’t know what Omegaverse was, for example.
But just as you point out, people might not pick “I don’t know” even if they’ve never read a story of that sort before, if they think they can understand what it means from the name of the trope.
We definitely agree that the “most hated” tropes all have people who like them, or are willing to put up with them, or even people who said “Nay!” to them but really read them! To make it easier to hold this all in our heads, here’s a bar graph of the “most hated” tropes with all their responses listed, not just the “Nay!” ones. (Note that it’s on a different scale than the “most controversial” graph!)
So you can see that even for the most-disliked item, 787 people voted “yay.” For self/self, there’s over 1500 people enjoying those fics, even though it’s #9 most disliked.
(As an aside: many of these people may have understood “underage” to mean “any character under 18 under any circumstances” or something like that and have voted “yay” because they like reading fic about Vampire Diaries characters who are 16 when they’re doing the nasty. So please don’t assume that this means that there’s 787 people who are really into stories about prepubescent children. There probably are some people who are, but we know for a fact that people found the way the question was written confusing, so that number is almost certainly high.)
Back on the “IDK” issue: 400 people said they didn’t know what centaurification was. By comparison, over on the “most controversial” chart, 579 people didn’t know what the Omegaverse was. That’s probably because people figured they knew what “centaurification” meant (when it was placed in the context of other character transformations like body swapping and wingfic) and could decide whether or not they liked it without ever having read a fic featuring centaurification!
We wouldn’t be surprised if you were right that the issue is that centaurification used to be a bigger deal than it is today. When we did our research to pick tropes, we ran across a lot of terms for tropes that we don’t use today. We had to make hard choices about whether to include them or not, and we tried to err on the side of leaving things in (hence centaurification) unless there was really no evidence the terms were still in use.
One more question: Can we talk about this in our next episode of the podcast? We’d love to discuss this issue at more length and name you as the person who brought it up, if you’re OK with that!
Wow, um, I was not actually expecting a reply to that. :) I’ve been in fandom for a while but I’m a Tumblr novice with, like, 16 followers, and I don’t really have the hang of conversing on it.
Anyway, sure, if you want to talk about this idea on the podcast, that’s cool by me. The idea of being mentioned by name outside my little corner of fandom is…frankly astonishing and a little alarming…but sure, why not? – I guess this means I have officially graduated from lurker status. :)
I should clarify that I used “omegaverse” and “centaurification” and “coffeeshop AU” as examples just so I could have nouns to put in those sentences, not because I claim to know something about them in particular. Though I admit I picked “centaurification” because it was the one trope named in the article that made me go “what? that’s enough of a thing that we have a name for it? and it’s super-popular? I wonder what that’s all about?”
Anyway, what I thought was interesting was the idea that the fact that people are writing (or, perhaps, used to write) enough of X for it to be a recognizable trope that people generally have opinions about it, means that by definition there must be (or have once been) a group of people who liked X enough to *write* it. If there were a Y that was truly, truly unpopular, presumably it wouldn’t show up on the survey because there wouldn’t be a body of fic with that tag sitting around for us all to know about. :)