Friday, April 23, 2021

When Comparing (Fandoms) Becomes Toxic

They're battles that have raged for decades. Which is better: Star Trek or Star Wars? Marvel or DC? Simpsons or Family Guy? Boxers or briefs? While comparison can be healthy to understand the strengths and weaknesses between two things, and thus give a person an idea as to what the work is about, it turns toxic when that comparison takes on a mean, hateful vibe and instead of comparing traits as a matter of understanding, lines of battle are drawn. 

Everything Has Something Good

The biggest problem with toxic comparison is when we see the world as a binary "good" and "bad" or "better" or "worse", ignoring that things are far more complex than can be labeled with a general quality stamp. Using DC and Marvel as a frame of reference, we can see that each has strengths and weaknesses. DC, while being earnest in it's good guys good bad guys bad, tends to oversimplify problems and has issues letting its characters grow and change organically, leaving Batman an emotionally stunted man who beats up less wealthy people forever. Marvel (we're going with the comics for this one) has more dynamic and subtle characters, yet can sometimes lose sight of its overall tone when one day a Norse god, a billionaire and a steroid junkie can be praised for saving the world while a group of teenagers who were born with a genetic mutation stop a villain and are told that they are abominations. 

What it comes down to with fandoms is a matter of taste. You could want a world with more nuance situations and complex worldbuilding, and thus like Marvel. You may like the stark contrast between good and evil where the heroes always win then you'll be into DC. Maybe you grew up watching every episode of Batman The Animated Series and now Batman is your favorite, or maybe you watched every episode of Spider-Man and so you're a Spider-Man fan. 

When Comparison Goes Bad

Comparing and contrasting is one thing, and a friendly argument over who could win in a fight between Hulk and Superman is always a fun way to kill an hour while you're waiting for the pizza to show up, but the toxicity is when a person tries to convince another person that they are wrong for liking what they like because said thing is somehow inferior and thus makes the person inferior. 

For example: Who on earth would think that Hulk could beat Superman? It's in canon that the Hulk's power is limited to the amount of adrenaline his brain can make while Superman can absorb sunlight and keep his power going all Superman has to do is outlast the Hulk. What kind of idiot would think that the Hulk would have a chance against Superman? Hulk can't even fly. What a stupid argument. 

Do we see where the toxicity would flow into the thought process? Not only are there now judgment calls on the characters but now there's judgment on the person themselves for having a different opinion. 

*DISCLAIMER* While the aforementioned argument about Superman vs Hulk is a valid argument it can also be said that if Hulk was able to land enough hits while at his peak he could probably take Superman down since this is essentially how Doomsday did it.

Have All The Cake

The big problem with comparison in general, whether between fandoms or people, is when we forget to acknowledge that there is no right answer, and that everything is valid. If a person wants to only like Superman from the movies and doesn't read the comics that's fine. If someone is more interested in Spider-Man from the 90's cartoon than they are in Miles Morales that's fine too. In fact I've heard rumor of people who have had Deadpool and Harley Quinn standing side-by-side on their Funko Pop shelves, indicating that they are fans of BOTH. 

Shocker, I know. 

Also it's me, I'm people. 

The fact is that every franchise, character, and person is an amalgamation of past ideas and inspiration from others, making us all blurred together into one huge franchise. The Joker was based off a character from an old movie called The Man Who Laughs. Deadpool was supposed to be a parody of the uber macho ninja warrior Deathstroke, and both the Justice League and the Avengers are basic retellings of the old Roman pantheon. Judging someone based on how different they are from you and attaching a value ranking to them is hypocritical because chances are you either like your own franchise for the same reason they like theirs or both franchises are inspired by the same thing. 

So before you make a judgment call on that guy wearing the Superman tee shirt, ask yourself if your opinion will enhance the discussion or if it'll take away from someone else's enjoyment. 


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