"To be fair..."
—Any Troper, any page
You click the link. You read the entry. My, this is a good one. Way to call out those Hollywood hacks on their use of a nonsensical device. Oh, how silly these shows are, using such a silly and obvious tro—Hey! Wait a minute! That's my favorite show on that list, five lines down! They'd never use such a lame cliche! Doesn't the editor who wrote this know that it's perfectly justified, and that It Makes Sense in Context, really, I swear?
Well, I'll put a stop to that! Time to hit that edit button, send in the second bullet point and let the site readership know that actually, don't forget that, to be fair, what really happened is--
Justifying edits are bad. Do not make justifying edits.
Justifying edits usually come from a fundamental misunderstanding of what "Trope" means. The point of tropes is that they work; that's why they're used so much. They're natural and useful story elements, often shortcuts that eliminate scads of boring exposition. Since tropes are not inherently bad to begin with, there's no reason to "defend" your favorite show by "justifying" its tropes.
The Justifying Edit typically starts on the next line, contradicts the previous line and completely fails to accomplish its intended purpose. Common reasons why:
- The justification is based on debatable grounds that will look like guesswork, rationalization or Misaimed Fandom to others.
- The justification asserts that the use of the trope resulted in a better story, or invokes Your Mileage May Vary and/or MST3K Mantra. None of these issues are relevant.
- The justification is that some kind of rationalization is provided in-story. This is based on a misunderstanding of Justified Trope by the All The Tropes definition: It's not a "good trope", it's a trope that flows naturally and inevitably from the original premise of the story. A story fact that is invented and introduced to explain an otherwise-implausible trope is a Hand Wave, not a Justified Trope. (Many Hand Waves are used to excellent effect; many Justified Tropes wind up as Wallbangers - "good" has nothing to do with it.)
- Trying to justify some tropes (like Action Girl, Determinator, Yandere, or Barbie Doll Anatomy) is completely silly - not only is the trope not inherently negative, the trope is inherently not justifiable. It just exists, usually as an expected staple of a genre.
- The justification is not so compelling that it warrants breaking up the flow and structure of the article for an extensive info-dump of boring details, or worse, a debate between editors. Don't bore the reader. If it's truly a Justified Trope by the All The Tropes definition, make your explanation brief and not argumentative. If it would take paragraphs to explain or would contradict the previous editor as a matter of subjective opinion, don't add the explanation.
The justifying editor often assumes that the original editor (a) doesn't like the show in question and is trying to badmouth it, (b) wasn't paying enough attention, or (c) doesn't like the show in question and is trying to badmouth it. In reality, it's more likely that either they were trying to keep the article short and sweet, or they understood the justification but didn't consider it relevant/sufficient. And it's much more likely than not that they're actually a loyal fan of the show in question, or they wouldn't have been reading a page dedicated to it in the first place.
A Justifying Correction may sound similar, but is a completely different matter. It's an addition made to contradict a verifiably-incorrect claim of objective fact (not subjective opinion):
- Show A: Character B said "C".
- Character B actually said "D", as you can see on page XYZ. So Show A isn't an example of this trope.
This is bad form. All The Tropes is informal enough not to demand references for every claim as The Other Wiki does, so you don't need justification to correct a perceived error in objective fact (though explaining in the "edit reason" is considered good form). If the objective facts contradict or significantly challenge the validity of the example, the best thing to do is 1) if possible, check to make sure you're remembering it correctly, then 2) remove it altogether (again, with a "edit reason" given for good form, or even an explanation on the Discussion Page if the edit is drastic enough). If it's a recent edit and you're particularly sensitive about hurting the editor's feelings, explain what you think the factual error is on the Discussion Page and give them a chance to delete it themselves. (There's a strong chance they'll never respond or even know. Make a mental note to check back later, and delete it yourself if there's no response.) See Repair, Don't Respond.
Justifying edits are to be avoided since they are one of the signs of Conversation in the Main Page. To a fan of the show they look nitpicky; to someone who's not a fan they're annoying and look like Fan Dumb, possibly turning them off from trying the show. Don't make the writing weaker in order to try and cast your show in a better light - the way a work plays with any given trope says little or nothing about its overall quality, in either direction. If an example is factually incorrect, remove it entirely and explain in the "edit reason" field or the discussion page. Finally, remember that acknowledging that it's a justifying edit doesn't mean that it's okay to make it.
If you see a justifying edit, the first thing you should do is figure out why it was made, which will result in one of two courses of action:
- If it's being argumentative or explaining how the above entry is Not an Example then just delete it - examples are only useful when most people who watch the show in question can at least agree that it uses the trope. If it has a point, you can probably delete the entry that it's responding to as well.
- If the edit in question is simply adding more contextual information that was omitted from the original entry but still establishes the example as having a clear relation to the trope, just try to integrate the information into the original entry in such a way that it appears the example was written by a single person. Remember that editing examples is encouraged - adding sub-entries that make the page look like a forum post is not.
That's what you should do if you see a Justifying Edit, but remember that above all else, what you should not do is Pothole it to this page.