The Powers That Be

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Synonyms: TPTB, The Idiots in Charge
See also: Mofftiss, Showrunner, Word of God, Jossed, Kripked, TPTB's Involvement with Fandom
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a 1985 meta comment, from Down and Unsafe #3, artist is Kathy Hanson

The Powers That Be, or TPTB, (less friendly: The Idiots in Charge or TIIC) is a term used to describe those with creative control or legal control over a media product.

TPTB is most often applied to corporate owners, and encompasses the entire chain of individuals with legal or creative input or veto. Fans may also use it to refer to the showrunner or producers of a series, or the creator and possibly his or her production company (such as Joss Whedon's Mutant Enemy production company), who may in fact have less control than the larger corporation that airs and markets a series. (For instance, in the late '90s, Fox television tried to shut down the fan sites for such series as The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the corporate Powers That Be, despite protests from the showrunners and creators of those series.)

Fandoms have different levels of involvement with the creators of their source texts. This involvement varies in intensity, takes on several forms, and has differing end results. For more, see TPTB's Involvement with Fandom.

Origin of the Term: TPTB

"The powers that be" is a Biblical term first used in William Tyndale's translation of the New Testament in 1526.

Let every soul submit himself unto the authority of the higher powers. There is no power but of God. The powers that be, are ordained of God. - Romans 13:11.

It has since passed into colloquial usage to describe any authority or group of authorities, usually those in charge of something over which the common people have little or no control.

Appearances in Canon

Characters on the television show Angel frequently invoked the term in canon to describe an off-camera, ultimate supernatural authority, a vaguely defined, yet indisputably bureaucratic deus ex machina. However, fannish usage predates that show by many years. [1] One early fannish use was in 1976, when a fan states writes that Barbary Coast was pulled off of Australian television for poor ratings after only five episodes: "Television powers that be don't believe in giving a new show much of a chance, do they?" [2] It was also frequently used in discussion groups about Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

Limits to TPTB's power

TPTB are the only official creators of canon, although a writer or creator's statements may not always be considered canon by fans. For instance, J.K. Rowling's post-Book 7 revelation that Albus Dumbledore is gay is not always considered canon, since it was never explicitly stated within the text itself.

See Authorial Intent.

Examples of Usage

  • "I think TPTB are idiotic in not bringing back Ford when there have been so many opportunities to do so." (From a Gateworld forum: Ford was a first season character who left the show in early 2nd season of SGA.)
  • "I just wish with all my heart that TPTB had chosen to go in a different direction." (From a Sentinel community, talking about the 3rd season cliff hanger.)
  • "I just watched Highlander casually. Then TPTB introduced a new character, a certain 5000 year old man, and I was hooked." (From the ROG list.)

Meta/Further Reading


  1. ^ see talk page
  2. ^ from STAG #17


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