Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Fanboys and the Us-vs-Them Attitude

Last night, a friend posted this image on his Facebook wall.

I found the image amusing, as did others.  However, the third comment in said the following:

 “can’t believe “fans” are say [sic] Rises won’t get the same numbers or better than Avengers…no faith?”

Kind of an odd comment to make, but with the image being The Dark Knight Rises related and Marvel’s The Avengers being released this past weekend, I guess I could see the connection.  A few comments later, another posted wrote this:

“Batman fans angry they’ll never have an Avengers like performance to brag about so they come up with this. LOL”

This caused me to pause and ask myself “Wait…what? “.  This is a prefect case example of what I’ve been seeing a lot of over the past few months on internet forums: an “Us vs. Them” attitude.  I don’t quite understand why people feel the need to express this sentiment.  Let me back up a moment to fully explain this concept.

Batman is owned by DC Comics.  DC’s direct competitor in the comic world is Marvel, who owns The Avengers.   As such, these two movies properties are owned by different companies.  Of course, there will be a bit of a rivalry between fans of the two companies.   I am more of a DC Comics fan and find myself more interested in their stuff.  However, I am not against people who like stuff produced by Marvel, nor and I going to get in some heated debate about which one is ultimately “better”.  That’s subjective.

What I don’t understand are the people who do get in those heated debates.  It isn’t limited to comic books.  You can see it all over with different things (sports fanatics are another group that fall into this).  I don’t see why one has to be actively against the other side, especially since things like movies are simply made for entertainment.  Can’t you enjoy both?

Going back to the Facebook posting: There were a few more exchanges about Marvel fans vs. DC fans.  Honestly, it was getting a bit cringe-worthy.  Then, like an idiot, I posted:

“Why must everything have a “us vs. them” attitude? Honestly, who gives a shit? Both films are probably going to be enjoyable on some level. Both are going to make buckets of cash. And both are going to ensure their respective franchises will continue on.”

Soon, one poster (who I am not social media friends with – I don’t even know the person), who I’ll name “Todd”, responded:

“and only one will be a better film and that’s TDKR”

“Todd” is correct.  Avengers or TDKR; one will be better.  “Todd” already believes it’ll be the next Batman movie which is two months from release, but he might very well be right.  Now, the logical thing in my should have been to close my computer down and work on other things.  But, as I mentioned, I’m an idiot, so (after a few more “us vs. them” comments by others), I asked:

“I’m sure both will end up being good movies. Who cares if one ends up being a better than the other? Why is it *that* important?”

I know; I’m a glutton for punishment.  But, it is a valid question.  Why is it important for one to be better than the other?  At this point, my only guess is for fans to have “bragging rights” for the film (even though they had nothing to do with the actual production).  “Todd” countered:

“because its factual. Am I to ignore which is the better film because you’ve got some misplaced political correctness going on?”

Now, “Todd” is entering into angry fanboy mode.  He, of course, didn’t address my question, completely misread the point behind my question, and started to accuse me of…something (honestly, I’m not sure what he was trying to really get at).  I should have left it at that, but I decided to get snarky:

“So it is “misplaced political correctness” to not have a “us vs. them” attitude? I think I can live with that.”

Remind me never to get snarky.  Yeah, I was baited and, in retrospect, I’m lowering my head in shame.  But truth be told, I can live my life without having belittling others over what they enjoy (yes, I realize I had some snark, but I wasn’t attacking him and the discussion was getting foolish).  Not to be outdone, “Todd” retorted:

“live the lie all you want. One is going to be better than another and acknowledging that and having an opinion on it is not an us vs, them comparison. it’s a matter of taste and preference and you’re continual assault on people having an opinion is ridiculous”

Self-awareness?  Probably not.  “Todd” has not gotten into full-on defensive angry mode.  Let’s look at his comment.  For starters: what lie?  Also, when did I launch a “continual assault” on him?  I also enjoy how he turned is “factual” comment into “matter of taste and preference”.  While “Todd” does have a point in that having an opinion isn’t a “us vs. them” comparison, it also demonstrates how he completely missed my earlier point.

This is the perfect example of a fanboy.  There are many definitions of fanboy, but in this case, a fanboy is generally a negative term for someone who is so in love with something (comics, TV shows, movies, sports, etc), that they are unable to accept any criticism of the thing they love.  They can get angry and lash out if someone thinks differently, even minor things.  You see this a lot on internet forums.  You can try to reason and attempt a level-headed discussion with them, but if you have an opposing view, watch out!  They’ll try to twist your words in an attempt to make you look like an idiot when, in actuality, they look more foolish.

After this, another poster asked “Todd” to relax because it was just a discussion.  In response, “Todd” said:

“I am relaxed, perhaps you’ve never had a rigorous debate with someone before.  This isn’t even a slight effort yet, sheesh. You guys are so sensitive”

1) It isn’t a rigorous debate or even a debate.  2) Sensitive?  Self-Awareness?  Again, probably not.

A few others chimed in on their thoughts about TDKR and Marvel’s The Avengers.  This was likely the debate that “Todd” was looking for which I wasn’t supplying.  While I am usually a pretty-easy going guy, if I have one fault, it is that I rarely accept it when people hurl accusations about me that are completely false.  So, I gave one last comment to further explain what I was getting at.  This back-and-forth got stupid and it was clearly due to an initial missing the point.

“[“Todd”] you are over-reacting. I never said that one wouldn’t be better than the other. I never “assaulted” your opinion (even though you earlier claimed it was “factual”, but I digress). I was only wondering why it *mattered* if one was better than the other and then you became overly defensive on this, lets face it, very trivial matter.”

I probably could have done without pointing out his contradiction.  He responded:

“sure you did. You equated having an opinion favoring one film over the other as a Us. Vs. Them mentality and It’s pretty to the point in your post you didn’t mean that in a positive connotation. You acted as if preferring one over the other is some kind of inherent flaw that people fall back on, when it’s really not. There are ways to make films across the spectrum that follow general and universal rules, in that degree these two movies can be compared for comparative purposes or for shits and giggles, it needn’t be this war type mentality you seem to be suggesting upon anyone who shows a preference.

One film is bound to be better than the other and when TDKR comes out I will bask in a lofty discussion about which one it was, because it will bring out points about Cinema and the respective approaches of both director/writers”

He is right, but that wasn’t what I was saying, and that much is clear if you read my comments.  However, when it comes to fanboys, they read what they want into things.  As such, they can wildly miss the intention.  It furthers their aggressive feelings.

He also has a slight point.  My latter “us vs. them” comment was misplaced.

After this, “Todd” has with another poster on Marvel’s The Avengers and TDKR (in which I am amazed at “Todd’s” assuredness over a movie that is still two months away).  This was less a “us vs. them” argument, but “Todd” was still in full-on fanboy mode.

Eventually, I saw his response to me, and, at this point, you do what you only can do when it comes to folks such as “Todd”: try to explain yourself clearly once more and simply resign to the fact that this conversation is a dead end:

“[“Todd”] you misunderstood my UvT comment.  It wasn’t meant to be tied directly to our back and forth, but I could understand how you could interpret as such. Poor wording on my part.

My second question still stands in that I still don’t understand how why you are getting defensive when I ask “what does it matter if one is better than the other”.  Of course one will be better.  I never once suggested otherwise.  You are interpreting it as if I am mocking your opinion.  I’m not; I never once did.

Seeing where this comment section has gone, I can tell that this likely won’t get anywhere.  I suppose it is just as well.”

As you can tell, I am resigning myself.  The thing with these attitudes (“Us-Vs.-Them” or fanboy) is that it isn’t worth it half the time  It can be difficult not to intervene in a discussion where you see blind devotion to something, but in the end, you can’t simply can’t talk to people like that.

To my surprise “Todd” responded with this:

“Then matter is not important. […]”

He goes on to explain why.  I gave a quick response agreeing with him and stating my initial question came from seeing similar comments online where the posters were certain it did matter which movie was better.  We were on the same page now and this had a “happy” ending.  Make no mistake, though, this is not common.

This entry is getting pretty long, but to sum up: when you encounter fandom online, you’ll almost always encounter fanboys and you’ll likely run into a “us vs. them” attitude.  These occur usually when some big “thing” (in this case: movies) come out from competing companies.  I don’t understand it as it seems completely pointless to spend such negative energy towards something ultimately trivial.

As I’ve gone over this topic with my experience, I don’t want to stand here saying how great I am, or that I am better than fanboys.  In some ways, I am just as bad by engaging them.  People are people, and fanboyism is what it is.  In the end, it is ultimately a sad, unfortunate element of our “internet society”.

~N

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7 responses to “Fanboys and the Us-vs-Them Attitude

  1. Ben May 7, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    You seemed like you were lucky with “Todd’s” responses. I’ve seen (but never dared get involved in) comment debates where they turn ridiculously ugly very quickly because people misinterpret what somebody is trying to say or get overly defensive very quickly. I can’t remember who said it but someone was very accurate when they said “Reading an internet comments section can sometimes being like staring into Hell itself!”

    • Nick! May 7, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      Hi Ben. Thanks for commenting. I agree. Movie news websites with the talkback section are the worst of the worst. The spiteful and hateful things that come out from those are mind boggling.

  2. CultureCast-Z May 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    I’ve learned to just not get involved with this kind of crap.

    • Nick! May 7, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      Agreed. Half the time, it happens so spontaneously, you don’t even realize you are in it until its too late. It’s partially the reason I don’t bother with forums anymore.

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