We love debate. It's fun, it gets the blood pumping and the emotions running high. We throw our emotions out on the table and we call each other out for whatever opinion they have that doesn't vibe with our own. We all do it about something, whether it's movies, music, TV shows, comic books or anything else we have a passionate opinion about.
Lately, I've been thinking that there's one form of that debate we need to squash, though. It's one that we have all had before, likely multiple times and even though I'm suggesting we get rid of it now, we're probably not going to anyway, but I'll still make a case for it.
We need to stop arguing about "the best of all-time." In everything. Period.
Hear me out on this one, because it really does apply to just about everything we debate on. A week ago, I saw this on Facebook:
Now, the article itself is talking about Captain America: Civil War being the ultimate comic book movie because of its many characters, shared histories and complete dependence on the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to tell its story makes it feel like a "live action comic book." While I see that point, I personally disagree because I don't think it has the comic book aesthetic nailed down at all, visually or thematically. It's still very much a movie based off of a comic book to me, but I digress.
The comment section of this piece on the actual website was having a very different conversation:
Some posters went back to the original point of the article, but this particular dialogue continued:
And like most comment sections, it snowballed a bit:
Ok, now everyone is entitled to their opinion and there's nothing wrong with that, but when you start talking about "best so far" or "best of all-time," you start treading murky waters here. If you want to compare Captain America: Civil War to other MCU movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that's one thing because they are all the same franchise. However, comparing it to a movie like The Dark Knight is really tough because so much about the two movies are uniquely different. Yes, they are both comic book movies but one embraces the comic book suspension of disbelief in terms of character abilities, technology, motivations and settings, while the other is an Oscar-winning (Best Supporting Actor, Best Sound Editing) crime drama steeped in nihilistic grit and real-world application. It's like comparing a cup of black coffee to a cup of coffee loaded with cream and sugar. They are too different to judge the exact same way.
So when we talk about "best of all-time," what are we really talking about? Our favorite one or the one we like the most personally, right? Maybe we have reasons for why we think that one is the best or at least better than others, but it's all subjective and opinion-based. There's nothing objectively empirical about how to measure which movie in any genre is the best of all-time.
This works with everything. Right now in the NBA, the debate has raged this season about whether or not the Golden State Warriors, having won a league-record 73 games in the regular season is the best team of all-time ahead of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls who previously had the record with 72 regular season wins. Rather, it's taken the form of could these 2016 Warriors beat the 1996 Bulls head-to-head:
That last one I kind of agree with. We're never going to see Michael Jordan's Bulls take on Steph Curry's Warriors and they both played in two very different leagues. When the Bulls played, hard fouls and a degree of physical contact was allowed that is not allowed today at all. Therefore, because the rules of each teams' era are vastly different, they were built vastly different. Each one is successful and we can guess what might happen if they played each other, but we will never know and short of running computer and video game simulations that aren't real in the first place, we will have zero concrete way of knowing. So what's the argument?
Even if Golden State wins the NBA title this year like many have said it has to do to validate its 73-win season, a fan of the 96 Bulls, or better yet Scottie Pippen, a member of that team that has been very vocal about how that team would sweep Golden State, could easily use the argument of the rules in each era being too different to call Golden State better than those Bulls. The reverse could be said for someone arguing in Golden State's favor. Neither one is wrong, so what's the debate here? There really isn't one, it's just a stalemate objectively. Anything you argue about at that point is pure speculation.
And maybe that is the ultimate point with this whole debate, that just like so many others it is fought merely with emotional and irrational thinking instead of evidence. There are plenty of debates you can have fun with and still have evidence or facts on your side, but in the case of these all-time debates, regardless of subject, you just don't have anything other than your own opinion and speculation to debate with. Now, is it fun to speculate and have opinions? Sure, especially in the case of things that haven't happened yet that may or may not be on equal ground, but the past is the past and can't be undone, right?
The 1996 Bulls won 72 games and an NBA title in their era. The 2016 Golden State Warriors won 73 games and even though at the time of this writing they were down 3-1 to Oklahoma City in the conference finals, they are trying to win an NBA title in their era. You may prefer one or the other, but you can only really, factually say that either team is the best team in their era, just like Captain America: Civil War is factually one of the best movies in its Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise and The Dark Knight is one of the best movies in the Christopher Nolan Bat-Trilogy. The comparisons end there and you shouldn't go any further without evidence.
Even as I say all of this, I know that we won't stop comparing and we won't stop having the all-time debate. Fans of Civil War will call it better than The Dark Knight and the Dark Knight fans will laugh in their face. Bulls fans will proclaim the greatness of the 95-96 team while Warriors fans hope their team bounces back to win three straight against OKC and win an NBA title so they can tell Bulls fans to shut up. It's all in the name of nothing more than spirited opinion and subjective speculation.