I will mock you at some point. Or something you view as sacred. I will do so without shame, and I expect you to do the same to me.
We all have our sacred ideas. Religious is an obvious category, but it is by no means the only one. Politics is the other big one. But it doesn’t stop there. We all have notions that we hold close to our hearts, that define our worldview, and shape our central philosophies. And we all should be challenged on these ideas now and then, no matter how strong our convictions.
When I tell people that I think Spider-Man is a terrible character (one of the worst in the history of comic book superheroes), most folks look at me like I said something impossible. Some even view it as profane. Spidey has his fans, and good for him. I’m not one of them. I find him to be shallow, childish, and geared toward the sadsack, self-centered egomaniacs within us. Especially young people who are still working out where they belong in this world. I dislike his attitude, his central themes, and nearly everyone of his “classic” stories. About the only things I like about Spidey are his costumes and his powers, but, seriously, the character makes me cringe and nearly every adaptation of him leaves me either irritated or unimpressed.
Right now, someone is getting ready to post a comment about how amazing Spidey is, and how wrong I am. And that’s fine. I’m well aware that for many, if not most superhero fans, Spider-Man is a defining character of the genre. They aren’t wrong either. But it doesn’t change the fact that I do not like the character and am unlikely to like the character ever. I know that most people are eager for Spider-Man to be part of the cinematic Marvel universe, but I’m hopeful he never joins. His mere presence will irritate and annoy me and reduce my enjoyment.
On the other hand, I love Superman, which is why I’m offended by Man of Steel, which took everything I loved about the character and discarded it in favor of that sort of self-centered narcissism embodied by so-called “sophisticated” superheroes. I’m happy to have a debate on the merits of the film, and while it’s unlikely I’ll change my mind, I welcome anyone who is genuinely interested in challenging my perception. That’s how discussion works.
We don’t have to agree, but we can’t be afraid to disagree. We needn’t jab at every sacred idea every chance we get, but we sure as hell should be able to mock and deride ideas we don’t share now and then. It needn’t be disrespectful, but it also needn’t be devoted to tiptoeing around sensitive topics simply because someone is sensitive about them. Tempers will flare. Emotions will run hot. And that’s okay, necessary even.
I’m not above yelling at someone if they want to tell me Godzilla is a good movie. I don’t want to yell, but I can easily lose control because of just how terrible and sub-par I think the film is. It offends me as a kaiju fan and as a professional storyteller. It pushes a lot of buttons, and I have said things I even felt bad about afterwards. My goal is never to intimidate or browbeat, but such discussions are going to have those moments. And it just shows how much we have to have them. A society where we don’t discuss ideas simply because of we’re afraid of the fallout is a stagnant culture.
We are human. We aren’t perfect. We must understand that we are wrong about most things, and that that’s okay. My interpretation of Spider-Man is not above debate. My thoughts on movies, books, religion, politics, breakfast foods, etc, are not beyond reproach. Neither are yours. Or anyone’s really.
When the Pope says faith must not be mocked, I say bullshit. Everything can be mocked. And it’s nice when we can have a civilized discussion, but it’s also a necessary requirement that not all conversation will be civilized. Some of it will be profane, offensive, and even deliberately in poor taste. And that’s just how conversation works. If we start debating on the merits of expression rather than the thoughts presented, then we’ve succeeded in not talking about anything at all. Just the most superficial aspects of discussion.
You have a right to be offended.
And I have a right to find amusement in your offense.
And vice versa.
Respect is not found in deference but in a willingness to share our ideas with each other with genuine sincerity.
Although I’m still pretty sure that Godzilla was a terrible, terrible flick.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,