A False Dichotomy of Opinions

An informal article about the debates and battles people and pop culture create between different pieces of literature or media.

Entertainment is a prominent part of society and often is a source of joy and expression for people across the planet. We all have various books, movies, performing artists, and tv shows that we like to spend our time enjoying. The literature and media we come across can be so diverse, full of different topics and ideas. Yet, within all of this is one thing that humanity consistently like to do: compare. It’s everywhere really and is an accepted part of society, but it often really annoys me. Marvel vs. DC, Harry Potter vs. Twilight, Star Wars vs. Star Trek, Classic vs. Modern, Disney vs. Dreamworks, and Katy Perry vs. Taylor Swift are just some examples of these dichotomies that exist. Oftentimes it all boils down to personal opinion, yet people often take these opinions and tout them as fact and make their ‘opponents’ out to be imbeciles with no taste. These are popular topics that are constantly debated over the years, each side trying to top the other. But, when one takes a step back and looks at the situation properly, it becomes absolutely ridiculous.

Marvel is colorful, often silly, and full of action. Yet, it can also be serious what with the existence and hatred towards the mutants of X-men. I enjoy Marvel; I always have since I started watched the Spiderman, X-men, Avengers tv shows growing up all the way through the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe. But, I also absolutely adore DC(confession here: maybe even a little bit more than Marvel)- I grew up on all the Batman(so many), Justice League, and Superman tv shows and they hold a special place in my heart for their dark and deep storylines. Yet, I’m often pushed to pick one or the other and then told to bash the one I didn’t choose. But, just because I may like DC a little more than Marvel doesn’t make it enough to turn around and hate on Marvel! I love both and they each hold a special place in my heart due to their characters, messages, and storylines.

I’m often baffled by the debate between Harry Potter and Twilight, especially with how bitter it can get. Why are we even comparing the two? Yes, dichotomies can be created between two things that are completely different, but why should they be? For me, they are just too different to be realistically and sensibly compared. I adore Harry Potter; I’ve read all the books, seen all the movies, and studied every bit of it to learn more. According to this dichotomy of pop culture, I should also hate Twilight…yet I don’t. I love Twilight too; I love the world that Stephanie Meyer built, I love all the characters she has created, and I enjoy the focus on the interactions between vampires, humans, and werewolves. I love both, yet am constantly told to pick one or the other. Why?? What true purpose does that serve, what good will that do? Nothing really, other than try to prove myself to a bunch of people I don’t know so that I am ‘accepted’ by them and thought ‘cool’. How ridiculous really!

As for the debate between Classic vs. Modern, I sigh and groan every time this topic comes up. As you can probably tell from my different posts on here, I read a lot of classics: Hamlet, Beowulf, Sir Orfeo, Doctor Faustus, etc.. But, I’m also a young adult who loves books like Harry Potter, Twilight, Percy Jackson, Gallagher Girls, His Fair Assassin, etc.. In terms of theater, I adore Hamlet while also loving Hamilton. I don’t want to pick between one or the other because I enjoy and learn from both of them…I also think that a lot of people pick classics over more modern books/musicals because they want to seem more cultured and better than others…

Ignoring the fact that Shakespeare literally wrote all his plays in London’s ‘red light district’ for the lower class of society and made ridiculous and silly jokes all throughout his plays, but now they are all paragons of classism and high society and William Shakespeare is held up as a classy and proper person, when that is simply not the case or the full story. I can adore Richard III one moment and then turn and enjoy Come From Away the next without having to choose which play/musical is better. Sure, a lot of theater is more musically based now than before(literally sat here and tried to think of incredibly popular recently made theatrical performance that didn’t involve singing and drew a blank…), but that doesn’t make it less incredible or deep or somehow awful.

As for the Disney vs. Dreamworks debate- I am absolutely obsessed with Disney(literally listening to ‘Encanto’s’ soundtrack on repeat while writing this…), I love every movie and honestly struggle to think of a Disney movie that I don’t like or hate. But, I also really love Dreamwork’s movies- Prince of Egypt, How To Train Your Dragon, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Rise of the Guardians, Kung Fu Panda, etc.. Disney is older than Dreamworks and has more material to work with and enjoy, but that doesn’t make Dreamworks not as enjoyable or good or make it something that deserves derision. They both create incredible movies, music, and storylines and I adore both of them regardless of the debate and dichotomy that is pushed.

Now, why did I suddenly decide to write this rant today? Because I ran into this just this morning! To explain, I shared Hugh Jackman’s cover of ‘Who am I?’ from Les Miserables yesterday and woke up to someone replying to me with Colm Wilkinson’s performance of the song with the comment “and here it is from someone who can sing”. I replied saying that Wilkinson’s performance is incredible especially vocally, but how I still really enjoy Hugh Jackman’s performance of ‘Who Am I?’ as I like that he focuses more on the emotions and conflict of the words and scenes rather than leaving us thinking ‘wow, a high note’. It’s a choice performer’s can make- to act a song more or to sing it more. Their comment back? Claiming that I’m relegating Wilkinson’s performance to just ‘wow, a high note’ with a comment that they didn’t think Hugh Jackman nailed the character at all, but that the Les Miserables Movie was terrible anyway as are most modern adaptions of musicals. *sigh* See why that frustrated me? Singing is not a dichotomy!! Just because I am upholding Hugh Jackman’s performance as Jean Valjean, does not mean that I am beating down Colm Wilkinson’s performance. They both played the character and made their own, very different, decisions. That is not a bad thing- that is how musicals work!

Here’s an example from my own life: I adore Hamilton. I love the version on Disney+ and listening to the original cast perform it in my free time often. Recently, I had the chance to go and see the #AndPeggy Tour perform Hamilton. And I loved it! Lin Manuel Miranda and Julius Thomas III portrayed the character Hamilton different from one another, but I enjoyed both! Same with all the other characters from both versions. I can love and enjoy both even if they are different. Now, someone else can stand up and say that they hated this person’s performance because ‘they didn’t copy how the original cast member did this part’, but how petty is that?? Of course they are not going to be perfect replicas of the original cast- and they should not have to be!! This is their character now and they have to ability to change it and make it their own. I saw countless times where the #AndPeggyTour paid homage to the original cast throughout the performance, yet they also made their own decision and choices and I enjoyed both.

It’s the same here between Colm Wilkinson and Hugh Jackman. Colm Wilkinson is the man that originated Jean Valjean’s character in Les Miserables- he is that character’s foundation. He is phenomenal and incredible in that role- but that does not mean that every performer than came after him is lesser than him or always bad. They just make different choices in how to play Jean Valjean. This person was creating a dichotomy that really did not or should not exist…Also I really hate it when people offer an opinion but do not explain it or give any reason for their statement: opinions do not speak for themselves! I can say I hate the color purple, but if that is all I say then that really offers nothing! It holds no true ground and is weak in result(That was a random example, I don’t hate the color purple).

You just create an inherently circular reasoning ‘I hate Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Jean Valjean because I hate Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Jean Valjean’ or ‘I hate modern movie adaptions of musicals because I hate modern movie adaptions of musicals’. There is the barest hint of an explanation with the first with how they said they didn’t think he could sing, but is that all Jean Valjean is supposed to be: a good singer? The music is an added part of the storyline, not the basis as shown in the book itself. In terms of Theater, music is more of a modern addition(as shown by all of Shakespeare’s works). Musicals are storylines of progression- singing perfectly or well does not mean that you are carrying along the storyline or showing character progression in any way that really makes a difference or affects the audience.

A quick example: one of my favorite musicals is the Pirates of Penzance. In that silly and ridiculous play, the main character has a nursemaid named Ruth. I watched a performance of it where the actress couldn’t really sing well- or seemed to be intentionally making herself sing out of tune. And yet it was incredible- it perfectly matched that character and the atmosphere of the play. It is the same with Hugh Jackman- he can sing, we’ve seen that before, but Jean Valjean has some of the heaviest songs of the play- so many deep dilemmas and decisions to make and such a tormented soul. Hugh Jackman portrays this perfectly!! And you’re going to pick on him just because he chose to act it this way and didn’t sing it perfect vocally? And how does that argument they made about his singing somehow connect to him not portraying Jean Valjean well? It doesn’t, it’s just throwing another opinion on top of a different one! Not giving the reasons for your opinions leaves you open to even more attacks to your opinion’s foundations.

Opinions are not fact- they have to be backed up by something! They cannot stand alone and if you try to do so then they really are just a foundation of concrete or a single pillar. And when someone else comes along and builds an in depth argument with reasons and logic, their structured house makes yours look barren, ridiculous, and ignoble. Overall, dichotomies are ridiculous creation’s that do nothing but make false and ridiculous comparisons and battles of us vs. them that really have no purpose or reason to existence. Sorry for my long rant, I just wanted to explain my frustrations with such things and my ideas and beliefs and where else to put it than in my blog?