Five People You Should Avoid Talking With
Travis Hedge Coke
Remember when Schwarzenegger’s character in Last Action Hero gets to the real world, and has a conversation with a woman for the first time? “It’s neat.” Talking to people is fun and you always learn something. Just, sometimes, what you learn is that the person you are talking to is a jerk.
There are essentially three kinds of jerk, those who are worth tolerating for everything not-jerk about them, those whose jerkiness is on its own temporarily amusing, and those you need to just walk away from (possibly after you destroy them, but that’s on you and your ego’s need for closure). The thing that doesn’t change is, they’re still jerks.
Here are five types you’re likely to encounter trying to have a conversation about just about anything. They’re all over the internet. They hang out at your local comics shop. If you and a couple friends get nostalgic and pop in Golden Eye on that console you have wedged between shoes in your closet? One of these chumps will magically appear to take on the remaining controller. Contact is inevitable. So, encounter, identify, and bug the hell out before you lose your mind and faith in humanity.
1. Dismissive Dude – When someone says, “you can’t tell me,” it’s more or less accurate. You can tell them, but they’re not going to hear it. They’ve locked you, and all potential thought not in agreement with them, out. If they are open to other opinions, just not yours, because you aren’t the right kind of human being for them? Same thing. The moment someone pulls the argument you’re not the right gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, political affiliation, fan, height, age, whatever to have a position on the subject at hand, just because, quit talking. Quit bothering.
Not to be mistaken for: When someone is saying your position is not the most valid at the moment or needs to take a backseat to someone who is more immediately affected by the situation, that is not being dismissed unfairly. You can have an opinion on ballistics, sexual politics, or Tim Drake, but if you don’t know how ballistics works, the definition of sexual politics, or who Tim Drake is, your opinion is probably of lesser value to the conversation than the person with facts or something genuinely at stake.
2. Lives in Fictionland – Beware anyone who acts as if characters make their own decisions or have their own tastes and will, but writers and artists are twisting them around. Once they cross over into being quite ready to threaten or blatantly insult real people but freak out if someone says “Batgirl is lame,” when they can’t forgive an artist for blowing a deadline when her dad dies, but they panic any time something bad happens to Spider-Man, just step away. The people who can’t stop complaining about a change from comics to the movie adaptation or from one comic to a relaunch, and how one has to be more real than the others.
Not to be mistaken for: When someone is addressing established behavior patterns in long-running fictions, or in-world rules and dynamics that have been clearly established. Being aware how things usually work in a fictional world, or really really liking a character is in no way the same as being incapable of emotionally discerning that Nick Fury is not a real guy.
3. Their Taste Is Truth – To continue with Nick Fury, if someone feels they have to insult you because you prefer any version of Nick Fury and obviously, the one they like is the “real,” the “true” Nick Fury and you’re confused and stupid and so is your stupid pretend Fury? Fuck’em. As soon as someone gets up in arms because your taste does not follow theirs, the second they get insulting because you don’t accept their taste as objective and your own as subjective and dumb, the conversation stops being viable as a conversation.
Not to be mistaken for: People just pissing around. Someone might make a joke about Smallville’s Clark Kent not being the real guy. “Wolverine isn’t even Wolverine anymore, he’s a robot with preprogrammed catchphrases.” Or, people who earnestly are asking what you like about a certain comic or character, which only reads sarcastic because you’re ready for it to read sarcastic.
4. Enemy of Pros – Some people just live to insult people who are more successful than they are. Maybe it’s jealousy, I don’t know. I just know these people are jerks. The kind of person who won’t stop themselves from going all over the internet to say horrible things about someone because that person wrote a comic they didn’t like or because that person draws comics they like, but not often enough and obviously the reason is that they are lazy, greedy, stupid, and playing too many videogames so they need to be threatened with death or the rape of their entire family. These people will steer any conversation you have with them around to why this pro is a megalomaniac or this pro needs to get raped (this kind of person is, in my experience, very very locked into rape as a corrective measure), and if you ever call them on the fact they’re talking about real people they don’t even know? They most likely will stare blankly or, if they are online, not address it at all. They don’t want to badmouth or threaten real people, just professional talent.
Not to be mistaken for: Someone with a legitimate grievance against a particular pro. Being a professional doesn’t make one a twenty-four hours a day seven days a week decent human being or a pass from being a decent human being.
5. Fallacy Addict – Some people don’t want to talk with you, they want to talk around you. When they’re not at a pick up artist seminar or polishing their debate team medals, they might want to talk comics, but it’s still going to be about steering anyone they are engaging with and they will use every cheap shot, any NLP doublespeke, and all the fallacies they can to direct you instead of listening to you. Watch for responses that don’t address what you said, but present a straw man that has nothing to do with what you said (or call everything and anything “straw man,” which is a way of doing the same). They will be fond of redirecting conversations to avoid any point anyone actually makes, while increasingly demanding evidence from you, that they will also dismiss by redirecting the conversation, rephrasing your position in an entirely incorrect fashion, and/or making personal insults all while being as condescending as possible, because negging drives people to respond.
Not to be mistaken for: Someone honestly confused by what you are saying, or who’s just having a bad day and responding to some other argument about something similar that they had with someone else earlier that week.