As described on the main policy page, the reasons why antagonist fussing is prohibited are as follows:
- It's a type of edit war. Can occur within minutes, hours or days, or can occur over several months.
- It is more important to know what a character does and who they are than to try an pin them down with a label.
- Mis-used words. The definitions of the words being used are for actors, not characters.
- Made-up words. Words are being invented for the really minor antagonists (usually the fourth level down or even further down) and there is no consistency to the words they make up.
- The labels being used are overly-complex and have built-in doubts about their validity by using words like "probably" and "maybe".
- Wikipedia's Manual of Style on films discourages using labels that are subject to interpretation.
- The people who are antagonist fussing can't make up their minds. The exact levels people are attempting to pin on a character are subject to interpretation.
- Some of the people who are doing this contradict themselves and continue to the point where it becomes vandalism.
- People that focus on antagonist levels often do not make any other kind of edit, so they are not helping to build the wiki.
- The edit war often continues into the Trivia sections of the page with statements of "other people think the character is (antagonist level), but they are really (different antagonist level) because of (reason)".
The details for each reason are listed here.
- 1. It's a type of edit war.
Because antagonist fussing is the result of interpretations as to exactly what kind of an antagonist or protagonist a character is in relation to all other antagonists/protagonists, it is very difficult to get people to agree on such precise distinctions.
In antagonist fussing, this precise level is changed many times during the history of the page. This can occur over a period of weeks, months, or even longer, and would be considered a slow-motion edit war. When determining a precise label turns into a disagreement between two or more people, the edits are undone rapidly. This is the more typical edit war.
Edit wars are not beneficial to helping build a wiki and encouraging the participation of its members.
- 2. What characters do and say is more important than trying to pin a label on them.
While saying a character is an antagonist may be correct, it does nothing to tell the reader what their role in the story is. For example, "Darth Vader is the main antagonist of The Empire Strikes Back" is correct. But it doesn't say anything about what his role within the Empire is, what he does in the movie, what his relationship is to Luke Skywalker, nor his attempt to recruit Luke.
Characters do not fit rigid labels, just as people in the real world do not fit rigid labels. A "white woman" or a "black woman" may be correct, but says nothing about who they are as a person nor what they've achieved in life.
- 3. Mis-used words.
The words being used to describe characters other than the main characters actually refer to actors, not characters. Deuteragonist and tritagonist refer to the second and third people in a three-person acting group. Even if the standards are relaxed to extend those definitions to characters, this is still venturing into trying to rigidly define what a character is.
Likewise, "secondary" and "tertiary" are being mis-used. Sometimes they are used to mean "less than something else", but other times they are used to mean "the second character" and "the third character".
- 4. Made-up words.
In an effort to try and rigidly define what kind of a character is, words are being made up to fill in the gaps they are trying to force on a character. Secondary and tertiary cover a second-level and third-level character (provided they are not being used at the time to mean "the second" and "the third" characters), but beyond that, people are trying to invent words to cover a fourth-level character, a fifth-level character and even further than that.
Words like "quadragonist" and "teratagonist" do not exist in the dictionary and are prohibited from use on this wiki.
- 5. Overly-complex labels.
In that same effort to pin a rigid label on a character, overly-complicated descriptions are being used. Examples include the following:
- deuteragonist-turned-secondary antagonist
- tritagonist-turned-secondary antagonist
- tritagonist-turned-supporting antagonist
- formerly the secondary antagonist
- (former) fourth, but semi, antagonist
- (maybe-former) secondary antagonist
The last two contain doubt and waffling about what kind of antagonist the character is, which is contrary to the whole point of trying to pin a character down to a specific label.
The last one says "he might be the former secondary antagonist, but I'm not really sure". The one before that says "he might be somewhat of a former antagonist out of a group of four antagonists".
- 6. Wikipedia discourages labels that are subject to interpretation.
Though Wikia was founded by the same group that created Wikipedia, it is not required that a Wikia wiki have the same policies as Wikipedia. However, their policies and reference material are well-established and sound, and are worth using here.
Wikipedia's Manual of Style for films says the following:
- "If roles are described outside of the plot summary, keep such descriptions concise. Interpretations in the form of labels (e.g. protagonist, villain, main character) should be avoided. A well-written plot summary should convey such roles."
This goes back to point number 2: tell who they are and what they do, not pin a rigid label on them.
In addition, the Manual of Style for embedded lists advises that prose is better than a list. "Prose flows, like one person speaking to another." Labels used to describe characters as antagonists and protagonists come across as a list and technical jargon.
- 7. Can't make up their minds.
Individual editors may decide to change the antagonist level and they usually do it without discussing the change with other people. As a result, one person may call a character a "deuteragonist", then the next may call them the "tertiary antagonist", then the next may call them the "secondary antagonist", then a fourth person may change it back to "tertiary antagonist".
These changes keep going back and forth, round and round. In these situations, antagonist fussing starts to occur, spread out across many editors.
- 8. Contradiction and vandalism.
When the same person edits a character's page several times, they may decide to change what kind of antagonist they say the character is. In this way, they also show they cannot make up their minds.
However, when this person makes several edits in a row and they change their mind but no one else makes any edits in between theirs, then they are contradicting what they said before. This can also occur on more than one wiki. For example, pages for Randall Boggs exist on several wikis relating to Disney and Pixar. If this person says Randall is one kind of antagonist on the first wiki but a different kind of antagonist on a second wiki on the same day, then they are contradicting themselves on multiple wikis.
When such contradictions keep occurring, whether it's on one wiki or several, then it becomes vandalism and is dealt with accordingly.
- 9. No other kinds of edits.
Many of the people who engage in antagonist fussing do not make any other kinds of edits. They spend all their time focusing on trying to pin a specific and rigid label on characters.
Wikis are built by editors adding onto the edits of the ones who came before. When people focus on rigid labels to the exclusion of all else, they are not helping to build the wiki. It's a lot like trying to build a brick wall, only to have everyone fussing over where to put a single brick. The wall does not get built because the focus is on that one brick.
An analysis of how many edits for a few characters are related to antagonists and what percentage of edits some editors have made that relate to antagonists is available here.
- 10. Edit wars spilling over to Trivia sections
One of the ways people engage in antagonist fussing and the resultant edit wars is to move the fussing down to the Trivia section if that page has one. If not, they'll create a Trivia section so they can add it.
In these situations, there will be statements along the lines of how the character is "constantly thought to be", "often thought to be" or "often mistaken as" one kind of antagonist level, followed by a different antagonist level and the reason why they are that different level.
With statements like this, especially the last one of "often mistaken as", the person is saying "those other people are wrong and here's what the character really is". These statements are then subject to being changed to the opposite values, continuing the antagonist fussing and edit wars.