So, a friend of mine and I were having a very heated argument.
Before I continue, it is important to note that I was right, and he was wrong. Superman IS a broken character, and DC comics tend to be very SHORT SIGHTED with their character creation and their development. Don’t even get me STARTED on SUPERMAN aka “The Broken One” whose power levels tend to fluctuate every other year, every other ISSUE…AND BATMAN IS NOT HUMAN!
YEAH! I SAID IT!
Anyway, my friend and I were having a mild disagreement about why DC movies don’t do well in theaters (mainly due to the points I made earlier) And, again, though I was correct… he managed to make a good point. Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman is pretty good. Of course, they had to completely disengage from the comic continuity for the story to be even REMOTELY sellable, but good none the less. I conceded to that point.
And suddenly, he became the biggest comedian this side of the equator. Verbal assaults and metaphors, just generally unbecoming of such an intelligent man. I felt attacked and responded in kind. Maybe I went a little overboard, but he started it! We laughed, had a good time, but I could tell that I may have hurt his feelings. Maybe I went too far in defending what I felt was a threat to my intelligence and reasoning. Sadly, at that time, I chose to capitalize on his vulnerability. I can’t remember what I said exactly, but when I came back with a strong counterpoint and he took too long defend it, I hit him with the ultimate trump phrase:
“You mad or nah?”
It’s a question that looks like one of concern but plays on how much a person cares by making them feel weak for caring so much. When delivered well, “Are you mad or nah?” is a cleverly disguised attack on the other person, implying that their emotions are clouding their judgment. In ultimate feint that exploits ego and character…without overtly doing either. Despite the slang (or, because of), it’s an ambiguous rouse that distracts the other person by shifting the argument from one of rationale to one of character. But unlike most insults, “Are you mad or nah?” gets the person to question themselves. We all want to appear intelligent, to appear competent. The question undermines all of that and exploits the human need for validation.
I started to feel bad upon retrospect. I actually remember my first “Are you mad or nah?” experience. A student actually pulled it out of his very limited ability to reason. It was a crude, last-ditch for him to gather some dignity after I addressed his behavior in a very public (and if I do say so myself) and hilarious manner.
I saw the phrase immediately for what it was. I knew that he was attempting to change the subject because he was not used to being held accountable.
I knew all of this. Yet, that did not stop me from feeling defensive and agitated. I, an educator and counselor, was bested by a kid who woke up in the morning, got dressed, looked himself over, and was satisfied with wearing jeans a size too small, and still managing to somehow let his belt loop be under his behind. Yet, he timed the question correctly… and once you add the ‘audience’ (i.e. his classmates), and my own ego as teacher…this somehow equated to a type of internal embarrassment. Don’t worry, I was able to finesse the topic, and my true feelings were unknown. I don’t need a catchphrase to articulate my opinion, whether a debate or otherwise. I am above such things.
Back to my story.I tested my newly found skill on my good friend. ” You mad ..or nah?” was delivered in an intentionally nuanced cadence, emphasized with a slightly arched eyebrow, with a moment of silence for effect.
SUCCESS! He began to stutter and pause. I could SEE him question the premise of his own argument, his own emotional state, and possibly if the look in his eyes were of any indication, the purpose of his very BEING!
I had WON!
But it is cheap. Not just because I implored a rhetoric tool inspired by a 15-year-old, but also because it actually didn’t address anything in the conversation. I’m better than that. I felt bad and decided to give some tips on how to internally process when you find yourself in this situation.
1.) DON’T GO FOR LOW HANGING FRUIT. It is easy to feel that disagreements are an attack on your character. The convenience of this assumption is that you don’t have to actually listen to what is being said, but can respond based solely on how you feel. Feelings are selfish, so you would find yourself really having a monologue disguised as a conversation. It’s not a good look. In this case, try your best not to respond immediately. Really think about how you feel in the moment, and be honest about it. Then go back to the actual conversation.
2.) RECOGNIZE YOUR EMOTIONAL STATE. Are you mad or nah?” implies that because you are upset, then that somehow makes you weak. This is stupid. If you are upset, instead of faking it and becoming defensive anyway, recognize your feelings (whether justified or not). You take power away from the question when you are unafraid to be your genuine self.
3.) THERE ARE NO MIND READERS. Charles Xavier is a telepath. Jean Grey is a telepath. Real people are not. No one knows how much you are embarrassed until you ACTUALLY ‘act’ mad.
4.) GO BACK TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAM. The question (and other statements like it) are often meant to deflect from the actual conversation. Bring the conversation back to focus. You are probably making a good point. Don’t get sidetracked.
Conversation is a beautiful art form. Don’t mare it by using cheap tactics to make a point. Because if the rationale is solid…then using parlor tricks makes your wonderfully designed argument less than what it should be.
And yes, Superman is still a horrible character.