March 12, 2013

Fictional characters with Wikipedia pages written almost like the pages of real people.

Here's an example:
Ethel Roberta Louise Mae Mertz (née Potter) is one of the four main fictional characters in the highly popular 1950s American television sitcom I Love Lucy, played by Vivian Vance....
Born around 1905 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where her father, Will Potter, owned a sweet shop and soda fountain with the slogan "You can lick our cones, but you can't beat our sodas!" Ethel has had a career in music and acting, yet got her start at Albuquerque's Little Theater, singing her signature number "Shortnin' Bread". A flapper in the 1920s, she met and married Fred Mertz either in 1933 (episode #2) or 1927 (episode #42)... Their wedding anniversary date is May 3rd (episode #121). After eloping (episode #113 - "Ethel's Hometown") Ethel worked in vaudeville with Fred before settling down and purchasing their own brownstone apartment building in New York City, containing the apartment they rent to Ricky and Lucy. ...
She has a fine soprano voice, among other artistic talents, but unlike Lucy is now unambitious and content as a housewife and landlady. Somewhat lonely, she is devoted to Lucy and her family. Despite her commonsense outlook, she is often fascinated by the possibilities for excitement opened up by Lucy's mad schemes. Although continually complaining about Fred's penny-pinching and other faults, she defers to him far more than Lucy does to Ricky....
Now, this article is is flagged with an exclamation mark and "This television-related article describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style." Going to the link, I see:

The problem with in-universe perspective

An in-universe perspective describes the narrative from the perspective of characters within the fictional universe, treating it as if it were real and ignoring real-world context and sourced analysis. The threshold of what constitutes in-universe writing is making any effort to re-create or uphold the illusion of the original fiction by omitting real-world info.
Many fan wikis and fan websites... take this approach, but it should not be used for Wikipedia articles. An in-universe perspective is inaccurate and misleading, inviting unverifiable original research. Most importantly, in-universe perspective defies community consensus as to what we do not want Wikipedia to be or become....
What an amazing effort Wikipedia is. I was charmed by the elements of what I now know is called the in-universe perspective, and now I also see how it conflicts with the grand enterprise of Wikipedia and the mechanisms of arriving at and enforcing the community consensus of what Wikipedia is or should be.

Why did I look up Ethel Mertz? 1. Meade asked me if I got his joke in the "Purchase of the Day" post.  2. I grudgingly admitted that I knew the song "Hey, Look Me Over," but I didn't think many readers would get it. 3. I played this YouTube of Lucille Ball singing the Broadway tune "Hey, Look Me Over," because I thought it would make Meade laugh because we laughed a lot 2 nights ago when I streamed "Lucy Thinks Ricky Is Trying To Murder Her" on my iPad and we've been referring to it ever since. 4. YouTube prompted me to play "Lucille Ball Loved her Ford Skyliner Retractable Hardtop," which included a segment with Fred and Ethel doing a song-and-dance routine. 5. I said "Weren't Fred and Ethel in vaudeville before they became landlords?"

Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Amazon streaming video, iPads, cars with retractable hardtops, television, Broadway, vaudeville... I love America.

26 comments:

Nonapod said...

I don't know if more research effort is spent on fiction or not, but one of the longest Wikipedia articles is about Dungeons & Dragons monsters.

MadisonMan said...

Everyone in Madison is fresh out of clover at this time of year.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Wikipedia is a tremendously valuable morning-after resource for those of us who watch TV blackout drunk.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

The geeks at Wikipedia flagged the page devoted to my biography... they said it was too close to being a press release or something... they also hinted that I might not be famous enough or "signficant" enough (I think that's the word they use)... and not enough citations... they also speculated that it might have been written by me... well, duh! Of course it was written by me... I don't have an agent or a manager or a publicist... who do they think writes the majority of bios on Wikipedia? Agents, managers, publicists and the subject himself... My page is still up and it contains not one falsehood or unverifiable statement... the WikiMafia might see this comment and go back and reflag my bio... they are often fueled by spite.

edutcher said...

Wiki works best if you're looking for details on something just to confirm.

As a source, it's really dicey.

Ann Althouse said...

Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Amazon streaming video, iPads, cars with retractable hardtops, television, Broadway, vaudeville... I love America.

You wouldn't be related to Simon Peter Grubber, AKA Peter Krieg, would you?

EDH said...

I always liked the memorable rendition of "California Here I Come" by the Ricardos and Mertzes as they drive over the Golden Gate Bridge.

They even made a commemorative plate of the scene.

Ann Althouse said...

"as they drive over the Golden Gate Bridge"

If you're driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, you've already been in California for a long time.

But I love singing relevant songs while crossing over bridges into a place. I always sing "8 More Miles to Louisville" while driving south on the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge over the Ohio.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Brian McKim,

Yes, I see. They think it might be an "autobiography" (as you concede it is), and they don't think it meets Wikipedia's "general notability guideline" (which, at the moment, I think it doesn't).

Actually, I think that the rules on notability (they're here) are damn well drafted and extremely sensible.

What they want, in short, is some secondary sources unrelated to yourself that verify the information in the article, and two mentions of the website you launched in books from 2004 and 2006 are maybe not quite enough to meet the standard.

who do they think writes the majority of bios on Wikipedia? Agents, managers, publicists and the subject himself.

The large majority of bios on Wikipedia, I should think, are of long-dead historical figures who do not have agents, managers, or publicists, and are presumably not writing from beyond the grave.

Ann Althouse said...

"a commemorative plate"

Wow, that is so corny. Lucy was always so over-excited about everything. Ethel, having been in vaudeville, was okay about hanging around at home, but poor Lucy was bonkers. So alarmed over nothing. She had to look for bizarre trouble. It's where Betty Friedan really got the idea for "the problem that has no name."

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann,

If you're driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, you've already been in California for a long time.

Not necessarily. It might be just long enough to get off a flight into SFO, rent a car, and drive north. An hour, possibly, depending on traffic.

Ann Althouse said...

"who do they think writes the majority of bios on Wikipedia? Agents, managers, publicists and the subject himself."

I thought it was bad form to work on your own page. I won't even look at mine. I feel I can't fix things, so I don't even want to see the problems.

Some idiot blogger who feels he's attacked me notably can make himself a character in the story of my life. It's weird! I just don't even look at it, because it will only upset me.

Ann Althouse said...

"Not necessarily. It might be just long enough to get off a flight into SFO, rent a car, and drive north. An hour, possibly, depending on traffic."

It's true that they do seem to be leaving San Francisco. It's in back of them on that plate, so maybe the idea is that they are entering the real California as the get out of the city....

Wait. I just did some research. They drove to California, to L.A. And the episode titled "California, Here We Come!" has them leaving NY. I think that's the George Washington Bridge and NYC in the background.

There are 3 more episodes before they get to L.A.:

"First Stop" ("After a long day of non-stop driving, the Ricardos and the Mertzes pull into a run-down cafe somewhere near Cincinnati that has nothing but frozen cheese sandwiches. The bunk beds in their ugly cabin, with spongy sagging mattresses, scoot back and forth across the floor every time a noisy train passes nearby.") A must-stream!

"Tennessee Bound" ("Lucy's rush to California lands the Ricardos and the Mertzes in jail in Bent Fork, Tennessee, the home town of their favorite "peapicker", Tennessee Ernie Ford. Future TV producer Aaron Spelling has a bit role as a gas station attendant.") Hmmm.

"Ethel's Home Town" ("The Ricardos and the Metzes arrive in Ethel's home town: Albuquerque, New Mexico and visit her parents. Lucy, Ricky, and Fred are shocked when the town-folk give Ethel a big welcome since Ethel told everybody she was the aspiring star.") That seems to be the one in the little clip I embedded.

Sigivald said...

An in-universe perspective is inaccurate and misleading, inviting unverifiable original research. Most importantly, in-universe perspective defies community consensus as to what we do not want Wikipedia to be or become....

Wikipedia is, culturally, crap.

Put it in a block labeled "in-universe perspective" and use it.

Deriding "original research" is pathetic - everything they link to is based on original research (or worse, is a retelling of it). If I make "original research" of X and put it on some random blogspot page, it's an acceptable source.

If I put it in the Wikipedia article, it's verboten. Because that's just different.

(And damn their "community" - it's a bloody echo-chamber, and god help you if you try to change any of it.

Likewise their rules about notability ... is it a print encyclopedia? No?

So there's no space premium. Why keep out any factual information? "Encyclopedic content" just rounds down to "pretend there's artificial scarcity of space", and "pretend we're the Encylopedia Britannica because we aren't able to comprehend a more flexible model".)

Wikipedia is very, very useful for looking up non-controversial subjects, but should never, ever be taken seriously as an entity - it already takes itself too seriously, and in a way that damages itself in the long run.

It's culturally broken.

Crunchy Frog said...

Wow, that is so corny. Lucy was always so over-excited about everything. Ethel, having been in vaudeville, was okay about hanging around at home, but poor Lucy was bonkers. So alarmed over nothing. She had to look for bizarre trouble. It's where Betty Friedan really got the idea for "the problem that has no name."

My wife loved that show. I couldn't stand it. I kept picturing being married to Lucy for more than ten seconds, and came to the conclusion that she would soon be dead, and I would rot in prison for her murder.

Maybe I could persuade the judge it was justifiable homicide. "...And that's when I shot her, Your Honor," may just work in this case.

Chip S. said...

Ethel, having been in vaudeville, was okay about hanging around at home

My diagnosis: weltschmerz

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann,

Actually, your own Wikipedia page is perfectly fine, with the exception of the segment on your "political views," which quotes you on Obama in 2009: "And I like to think that, now that he's President, with his steely nerve, his intelligence, and his groundedness, he'll do the job that must be done. The trickery is over."

... but doesn't mention anything you've said on the subject since!

There's a nice bibliography. My, but you have a flair for article titles. I particularly like Standing, In Fluffy Slippers and Who's to Blame for Law Reviews?

Paco Wové said...

"Why keep out any factual information?"

Because every crank and loon in the universe thinks they are peddling "factual information". It's an (admittedly imperfect) attempt to put some kind of filter on what gets posted there.

Astro said...

So as I understand then, in-universe is equivalent to 'the canon' as in the Star Trek franchise? J J Abrams use of a storyline not within 'the canon' meant his script was not entirely 'in-universe', which is what pissed off a bunch of old Star Trek fans.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

"who do they think writes the majority of bios on Wikipedia?"

Okay... Who do they think writes the majority of bios --of contemporary figures in show business-- on Wikipedia?

Initially, I may have done a quick and dirty bio which was too press release-ish. So I went back in and neutered it.

As for my notability, ask anyone in the standup business and they'll probably know who I am. (And there are people far less notable than me whose bios are not flagged.) And I haven't even bothered to insert the authorship of our book in the bio. It's a real book (not a vanity publication) and it's available on Amazon.com and in the B & N chain (for as long as they're around)... As for the citations, I put them in there to humor the editors... and I've got more, I just don't have the time to insert more. (And the citations might not meet the standard? Books? And do I have to provide some sort of citation for appearing on primetime network television? If being featured in two episodes of a reality series on the National Broadcasting Company doesn't help me in the notoriety department, the standards are whacky.

gerry said...

I just don't even look at it, because it will only upset me.

I refuse to believe you can get upset. I need the professional calm somewhere on the interwebs.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Brian McKim,

And do I have to provide some sort of citation for appearing on primetime network television?

Why, yes, I think you do. Broadcast dates might help. So would reviews of the broadcasts. (Try newspaper archives in the broadcast areas.) What they want is independently verifiable information. Stuff that could be rapidly checked. I think that's a reasonable requirement.

If being featured in two episodes of a reality series on the National Broadcasting Company doesn't help me in the notoriety department, the standards are whacky.

Notability, not notoriety. At least, I hope so.

SukieTawdry said...

Ethel Mae Potter, we never forgot her.

Episode directly before "Hollywood At Last," my all-time favorite. Every time I see it, I laugh until the tears roll down.

tiger said...

FTAA: '5. I said "Weren't Fred and Ethel in vaudeville before they became landlords?"'

Aaaaand one thing leads to another; a situation I am more than familiar with.

As for 'I Love Lucy'...
I hate it. Terrible show with stupid writing and nit-wit premises.

You can add to this: 'Green Acres' 'Beverly Hillbillies' 'The Andy Griffith Show' 'Gomer Pyle USMC' and 'Gilligan's Island'.

It's just my opinion and I could be wrong.

But I'm not.

ampersand said...

Wiki works best if you're looking for details on something just to confirm.

As a source, it's really dicey


I ran across an article in the published Encyclopaedia Britannica that described Alex Haley as white.
I think it was Malcolm X's entry.
It was published prior to Roots fame.

pookaa said...

"I always liked the memorable rendition of "California Here I Come" by the Ricardos and Mertzes as they drive over the Golden Gate Bridge."

Actually, they are driving over one of the bridges in New York, setting out on their two week long car trip across the US. The goal is California, hence the song. If you look at the commemorative plate, the bridge is grey, not golden.

john said...
This comment has been removed by the author.