Over the past few weeks as the anticipation and outrage that surrounded Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice reached a head, lines in the sand were drawn among the denizens of fandom. Over and over the question was asked of critics and fans, “Are you for Marvel or DC?” But this disingenuous line of questioning seeks to confine people solely to the culture that they consume, as if somehow liking a certain brand of superhero fare defines an individual. It is, for all intents and purposes, total bullshit. In pretty much all cases, superhero entertainment is a diversion from the daily rat race that all we all partake in. To prefer one over the other says nothing about you or anyone as a person. Think of it as a mantra, just keep repeating: You are not the art you consume.
Whether it’s movies, music, comic books, or classical art, our personal taste preferences say very little about who we are as a person. Taste is merely a tiny fragment of our personalities. As a movie nerd, saying I prefer the silent films of Charlie Chaplin to those of Buster Keaton doesn’t say anything about me other than my personal preference. Now I could alter that statement and include information which is actually about me: “I prefer the work of Charlie Chaplin over Buster Keaton because of the inherent class struggle emphasized with Chaplin’s Tramp as opposed the outlandish stunts of Keaton.” Through that alteration, I’ve included details that provide insight into why I prefer something, insight that would give away my liberal political leanings. My leanings in matters of silent movie stars and politics still says nothing about me aside from certain preferences. If someone were to say to me that they prefer Keaton over Chaplin, would that make them a raging conservative or less of a lover of cinema? Not at all.
What’s most infuriating about the whole Marvel or DC argument is the fact that it actually has little to do with the art, it’s all about corporate cheerleading. We could even take the whole Marvel or DC thing to its logical extreme by referring to them by the New York Stock Exchange abbreviations for their parent companies: Are you DIS or TWX? It’s really as ridiculous as demanding to know where somebody stands on the dire question of Subway or Quizno’s.
Even going further back in their history, it’s not like either one of these comic giants were beacons of integrity before their corporate overlords entered the picture. Each has a long history of screwing over creators, with multiple law suits having been filed and settled over the last half-century. If there is a moral argument to be made, I’m not exactly sure where it could be made.
But if we were to look at someone’s life solely through the lens of the entertainment prefer, how would we discuss death? I imagine an obituary would look a little something like this:
Sean Mulvihill passed away yesterday at the age of 33. He is survived by his collection of Daredevil comics. In life, Sean preferred the pop-infused levity of Marvel comic book movies over the dour and serious works done by DC. That preference was established in his youth, having preferred the Marvel model of personally flawed superheroes over the God-like roster of DC heroes. Sadly, he was unable to achieve what he most wanted to before his passing – to see Captain America: Civil War. In lieu of gifts, the family requests that you send rude messages online to strangers that disagree with him over superhero movies. That is truly the best way to honor his legacy.
Of course, that says nothing about me. It says nothing about who am I as a person, anything I’ve accomplished in my life, or anything really aside from a simple preference in regards of entertainment.
The fact is, attempting to define people based on what kind of entertainment they consume is something that should only be expected on an elementary school playground, complete with finger pointing and cruel taunting. In the adult world, we should put aside childish arguments in regards to children’s entertainment. As much as fans of superheroes want their materials to be taken as seriously by all as they take it themselves, the fact remains that these are characters intended for children, with colorful costumes and elaborate fantasies. And superhero movies are a product created by corporate entities with the aim of selling toys and other crossover merchandising on top of the modern mythology presented on the screen.
Cheering for one corporate product over another is an act of pure insanity. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying any of these movies. They can be totally fun seeing beloved characters share the silver screen, fulfilling some of the wishes of a childhood well in the past. But Marvel outgrossing DC or DC outgrossing Marvel is actually quite meaningless to our lives. The only way to have an actual vested interest is to have worked on the film or be a shareholder in the companies behind them. Don’t worry about what other people think of blockbuster movies. Worry about what you can control, what you can create, what you can achieve, what lives you can effect on a daily basis with common decency. Marvel or DC? DIS or TWX? Subway or Quizno’s? Either way, it’s a child’s game. It needs to stop. Nobody is the art they consume.