Forums: Ask the Editors: Allusions vs. References

 
  • Avatar of Angie_Jane

    Angie_Jane

    [1]Dec 10, 2012
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    I know that editors have probably encountered problems with users submitting a reference instead of an allusion. As defined by TV.com, an Allusion refers to an existing form of media; however, especially on the Archerguide, there have been many submissions that refer to real people or events.
    There have also been issues that relate to whether an allusion is a direct or indirect reference. TV.com allows direct references, but technically, an allusion is an indirect reference.
    I think we should be allowed to accept all of these types of submissions, since it helps fans of the show learn more about the show, and beyond. Plus, this would keep us from negating the hard work of our contributors.
    Thus, I would like to propose that "Allusions" be changed to "Allusions/References" to include people or events, and also encompass direct and indirect media references. Does anyone else agree, or do you think this is a terrible idea?


    ~Angie

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  • Avatar of jokipper

    jokipper

    [2]Dec 10, 2012
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    I agree that there should be clarification on the issue. While an allusion can indeed take the form of a direct (a passing) reference, there are also direct references which are not allusions. So my question has always been whether these non-allusion direct references are intended to go in the Allusions category. This type of blurb usually takes the form of a biography or history lesson without any real connection to the episode at all. I prefer this sort of direct reference to go into the Notes section, since they are definitely not allusions. In my opinion, and going by the rules in Tips Column #14, non-allusions do not belong in the Allusion category...unless there is clarification otherwise.
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  • Avatar of Gislef

    Gislef

    [3]Dec 10, 2012
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    Let's break it down. First thing to keep in mind is that "allusion" is simply a handy word that TV.com hangs the current short-form definition on:

    An allusion is an indirect reference to an existing form of media. Please credit the original media being referenced.

    There's also the staff column, which although five years old, has never been altered, superseded, or deleted. Although the short-form definition they have is no longer up-to-date. Whether Development meant to change some basic stuff, or just thought they were saying the same thing in less words, who knows? That definition:

    Allusions: An allusion is an indirect or passing reference to an existing form of media, be it to another TV program, a movie, a piece of music, or a book. Allusions are prevalent in television shows, and some shows, like The Family Guy, make extensive use of this kind of humor. When submitting allusions, always credit the original media being referenced with as much detail as possible.

    -----

    So you've got two open-ended words there: indirect and media.

    The older definition is a lot clearer about what media is. Presumably "media" has some specific meaning, or it has no meaning. Since everything is on the Internet somewhere, and the Internet is a form of medium, you could include literally everything as being on a form of media.

    So I'd tend to go with the older media definition, or you open yourself up to... well, everything.

    "indirect" is referenced with "passing," which is a little clearer, but not much. I imagine staff deliberately left that vague both because there is no precise way to determine how direct a direct allusion is, and to leave it to the editor's discretion because of that.

    -----

    That brings us to the question on references. First of all, which hard work would you be eliminating? If people don't read the guidelines, they submit once, you reject and explain why, they don't submit again. It's one entry lost, but that's probably not a lot of hard work.

    The problem with references, however, is where do you limit them? How many references do John Stewart, or Dennis Miller, or any late-night comedian, make to current events? How many news shows reference dozens of real-life people each episode? Is a joke about George Bush, or a news story on President Obama, an "indirect" reference? Do you need an explanation of who George Bush is? Or Reagan, or Carter, or FDR, or Abraham Lincoln?

    And why stop at people and events? What about places? Do you have to explain every time someone mentions Chicago, or London, or Hong Kong?

    Is a news story direct or passing? What if the news story is directly about Obama, but has a passing reference to George Bush?

    To me, practically, there has to be some limit. Otherwise you're simply turning TV.com into a very badly organized version of Wikipedia. Separating "media" from "real life" seems to be the way to go. Because once you include both, you're including... well, everything.

    -----

    One other point: the old definition, for what it's worth, says that allusions are "this kind of humor." That suggests that allusions should be humorous in some fashion. I'm sure that doesn't exclude Archer, or even comedian jokes, but it probably excludes news stories.

    *shrug* Sorry if that's not a lot of help. At the end of the day, you can probably do what you want, and I doubt staff is going to do anything. Certainly not if you make the definition more expansive, rather than less. But you may be opening yourself up to lots and lots of submissions, and a lot more greying the border between direct and indirect, media and real-life.
    Edited on 12/10/2012 11:31pm
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  • Avatar of Gislef

    Gislef

    [4]Dec 11, 2012
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    As far as redefining it to include real-life References as a default, I wouldn't be in favor of it for the reasons noted above.

    As a disclaimer, though, I don't like the allusion section. For the most part, people who don't watch the episode don't care and don't need the explanation. Does anybody really say, "Some guy dressed up like a jar of kool-aid appeared and I've never heard of him? Hmm, I must know who he is!"

    For people doing research, there's no organization or linkage. So someone, say, trying to figure out every time The Exorcist is mentioned in every TV episode ever aired would be out of luck anyway.

    Then you have editors who won't accept anything, and some that will accept everything (Is "An apple a day" an allusion?). And some that provide so little explanation they might not have bothered ("An apple a day" is a common expression.)

    Granted, Notes and Trivia are often problematical as well. But by definition, Allusions rely on a common shared knowledge for their value, which means most people that hear them already know what they mean. And the few that don't have this thing called the "Internet."
    Edited on 12/11/2012 7:51am
    Edited 2 total times.
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  • Avatar of jokipper

    jokipper

    [5]Dec 11, 2012
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    I believe that, in both cases, whoever wrote the vague TV.com version simply copied most of the basic definition from another source. Now, it's not always profitable to parse sentence construction to reach conclusions (because the original author probably didn't put much thought into it to begin with), but...

    "...an indirect or passing reference..." The lack of a comma after "indirect" indicates non-inclusion and that a passing reference can be different than an indirect reference...which means it can be direct(?). But what is a "passing reference" exactly, in this context? Who knows? The concept is muddied later in the column, with the "Allusions are passing references" sentence. What it should say is "Allusions can be either indirect or direct passing references." If it's a direct reference, then the subject should be mentioned only in passing, not with details. I doubt that whoever wrote this stuff had some masterminded plan with their vagueness...it's simply not thought-out and explained well.

    "...to an existing form of media..." causes problems as well. Yes, virtually everything is media now, even real-life people. Unless one has actually met and talked to George Bush, one knows only what has been learned through media. How do we limit it? By making sure it's an actual ALLUSION and not name-dropping or an irrelevant details. "I'm going to New York City" is not an allusion at face-value. "I'm going to the Big Apple" is an allusion. But if a character says "I'm going to New York City" while the theme song from "Midnight Cowboy" is playing in the background, then it's an allusion. It's the context of the reference in the episode that makes a direct reference an allusion, not the fact that it's a direct reference.

    Regarding these points, possibly the most important sentence in Tips Column #14 is:
    "If you're not sure that a writer intended to make an allusion, then it probably isn't."
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  • Avatar of jokipper

    jokipper

    [6]Dec 11, 2012
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    "...some shows, like The Family Guy, make extensive use of this kind of humor."

    This sentence is simply a very poor explanation of a concept. Since an allusion can be made without humor or irony, one can assume that whoever wrote this means that Family Guy makes extensive use of allusions AS humor, and not that an allusion has to be humorous.

    Mystery Science Theater 3000 did exactly the same thing. A typical episode might have 50 references. Most of them are allusions because they are direct references that have context in the episode...without the context, the references would not be funny, and their goal is to be funny, not to drop names. A typical MST3K ep often has so many allusions, that it's not possible for everyone to understand all of them offhand. And that's part of the value of having an Allusions category; if people knew that they could find the answers here, then they would look here. Otherwise, they go to the other sites that are setup to explain the allusions in these shows (as I have). As far as the category having value for someone who hasn't seen the episode...well, they probably don't care who the Set Decorator was either, but a complete guide will have that info in the Crew section. An episode guide can be for people who have seen the episode AND for people who haven't seen the episode.
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  • Avatar of Gislef

    Gislef

    [7]Dec 26, 2012
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    jokipper wrote:
    This sentence is simply a very poor explanation of a concept. Since an allusion can be made without humor or irony, one can assume that whoever wrote this means that Family Guy makes extensive use of allusions AS humor, and not that an allusion has to be humorous.


    But can a TV.com allusion be made without humor or irony?

    Like I noted earlier, "Allusion" isn't used by TV.com in any literary or academic context. It seems to be simply a single word with some correspondences to the actual definition, that they hang the concept on that they want used. A humorous/ironic cultural reference.

    If TV.com used the word Xuriqretx to refer to "humorous cultural references," and set aside a section for Xuriqretx, could a character on a show make a Xuriqretx without humor or irony?

    As far as watching an episode, I did note that there is at least one other reasons that someone who didn't want to watch an episode would want to know what an allusion is. However, TV.com provides no way to do that, either: to have a concrete list of every time that, say, The Exorcist, is mentioned on TV. But there's no way to even do a google search on many common references. Try to find out just every time on TV.com that an allusion to, say, Robin Hood or Sherlock Holmes is made.
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  • Avatar of jokipper

    jokipper

    [8]Jan 31, 2013
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    What, still no word from staff to clarify this issue?
    Should the Allusion category include blurbs that are not allusions, but simply references?
    A "yes" or a "no" would be enough to answer the question...

    Gislef wrote:

    But can a TV.com allusion be made without humor or irony?
    Like I noted earlier, "Allusion" isn't used by TV.com in any literary or academic context. It seems to be simply a single word with some correspondences to the actual definition, that they hang the concept on that they want used. A humorous/ironic cultural reference.


    And where are you getting this? They define an allusion twice:
    -An allusion is an indirect reference to an existing form of media.
    -An allusion is an indirect or passing reference to an existing form of media, be it to another TV program, a movie, a piece of music, or a book.
    Any definition of an allusion says close to the same thing, literary or otherwise.

    The "Family Guy" example is simply that...an example. Examples are not meant to be either all inclusive OR all exclusive. Note that in the two definitions above, neither "humorous" nor "ironic" is mentioned. It's not part of the definition of an allusion, here or anywhere else. An allusion can be parodic, sarcastic, ironic... but it can also be serious. That's up to the writer...he's the one creating the allusion.

    Gislef wrote:
    If TV.com used the word Xuriqretx to refer to "humorous cultural references," and set aside a section for Xuriqretx, could a character on a show make a Xuriqretx without humor or irony?


    Like this?
    An Xuriqretx is an indirect humorous cultural reference to an existing form of media.
    By adding words to the definition, we can make it say anything. And TV.com's definition of an allusion does not say this.

    Gislef wrote:
    As far as watching an episode, I did note that there is at least one other reasons that someone who didn't want to watch an episode would want to know what an allusion is. However, TV.com provides no way to do that, either: to have a concrete list of every time that, say, The Exorcist, is mentioned on TV. But there's no way to even do a google search on many common references. Try to find out just every time on TV.com that an allusion to, say, Robin Hood or Sherlock Holmes is made.


    Well, now you're noting what an Allusion category can't do. It can't change a flat tire either. I prefer to acknowledge it for what it can do

    BTW, what the heck is an "existing" form of media anyway? What is a non-existing form? Why did the authors feel compelled to add the "existing" word? Are the talking about "subspace communications" or something? Or is it case someone submitted an allusion to, say, Plan 9 from Outer Space 2, and it gives us leverage to reject the submission by saying "I'm sorry sir/madam, but that film doesn't exist"? Since when have we ever accepted submissions based upon non-existing sources?
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  • Avatar of Gislef

    Gislef

    [9]Mar 13, 2013
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    Were you expecting staff to weigh in?

    "humor" is mentioned in the Tips column about Allusions, when it refers to Allusion as "Allusions are prevalent in television shows, and some shows, like The Family Guy, make extensive use of this kind of humor." They seem to be equating Allusions = humor.

    Someone else mentioned irony.

    "Any definition of an allusion says close to the same thing, literary or otherwise." Not according to some people who have quoted me real-world definitions...
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  • Avatar of layle1

    layle1

    [10]Jun 8, 2013
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    I have a whole mess of guides where the allusions are questionable because they are tying in the scripted story to the real story that inspired it. It's a stretch to call it an allusion, even if the referenced media is a book, newspaper article, or eventual movie. The thing is, I specifically queried a staff member - now gone - as to whether this data should be moved to the notes section. I was told to keep everything in the allusions section.
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