While watching an episode of Ronin Warriors, I got to thinking about “the Blue Bears Paradox.” Just so you won’t have to scroll through the back-entries, the “paradox” is when you hate a work of fiction, but then like another work of fiction that is similar in ways to the one you hate.
I think the real problem here though, is the trend towards simplification, especially among nerd cliques. Most nerds never stop being fifteen years old, and when I was that age I tried to make everything fit into algorithms I could understand. It really wasn’t until about five years ago that I finally realized the world doesn’t work that way–some things are so complicated that you inherently can not explain them without simplifying them.
One experience I’ve had along these lines is explaining to people why Freeza (of Dragon Ball Z) was a good villain, while his brother Cooler (a character only introduced in the movies) was lame. To most people, Freeza and Cooler are the same character–they can’t see the difference. But its there.
The difference is that Freeza had a level of credibility about him. While he was insanely powerful, he could still be shaken and surprised. He took a buffed-up kamehame-ha and came away scratched, a fact that Goku missed… but it upset the Emperor of the Universe. He took a Genki Dama, and though he came out of it alive, he was panting and sweating and had brusies and a swollen eye, and Freeza himself said “I don’t know how I survived that…!” This is what makes him impressive: You know he’s taking damage, but he’s still in there, toughing it out.
Cooler has none of this. Unlike Freeza, Cooler basically comes to the party with God Mode turned on, and wipes the floor with the Z-Warriors. Keep in mind that Vegeta and Piccolo both actually put up a reasonable fight against Freeza, but against Cooler they both go down in a matter of seconds. Not only that, but you could kinda-understand Freeza as a character, but Cooler’s whole personality is that he wanted to start a fight, basically just because. Cooler then, comes off as a contrived Mary Sue rather than a believable character.
Now here’s the wham-banger: Even by explaining the differences between the two characters, I still simplified them. Truly, it is as the good book said: “The way that can be explained is not the true way, and the name that can be named is not the eternal name.” For many, the acquisition of knowledge is analogous to what happens when you copy an 8gig DVD to a 4gig DVD-R. It’s not that your opinions are self-serving or inconsistent, its that the other guy has a lower bitrate ;).
Hmmm… now that I’ve written this, I’m kind of not satisfied. This is one of those cases where I know what I’m trying to explain, but it was just… every possible word and method I thought I could use to do so just feels wrong some how. The above was my best effort, but its still nowhere near good enough. Guess I’ll just have to live with it.
Course, I can always edit later if I think of something.