In what we can only assume was a devious attempt to crush its future competition by inducing all of its fans to brutally murder each other, Netflix kicked off a brand new Marvel Cinematic Universe flame war yesterday, when it started streaming this year’s multi-billion blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War with a description listing the movie’s villain, Thanos, as an “intergalactic sociopath.” The comic book movie internet then (fittingly) began tearing itself in half, arguing about whether the big purple shoe fit.
Beyond the “Thanos Was Right” trolls, you can chalk the arguments being made on both sides of this discussion up to a handful of ambiguous factors. Partly, it’s thanks to a soulful (sorry) performance from actor Josh Brolin, who fills the movie with humanizing touches for his finger-snapping genocidal maniac. There’s also the movie’s structure, which is set up as a classic monomythic hero’s journey—for Thanos, which makes it a lot easier to identify with him and his goals.
The most pointed factor, though, is that there’s no widely recognized definition for what, exactly, a sociopath (intergalactic or otherwise) is; neither it, nor psychopathy (which it’s frequently conflated with) are formally included in the DSM-5, the big book of recognized mental disorders. Aspects of popular conceptions of both conditions, which hinge on the idea that a person is incapable of telling wrong from right—which Thanos clearly can, given his grief at actions he takes during the film—have been lumped into certain personality disorders, but there’s no simple, clear-cut definition for what a “sociopath” is, or how many people you have to kill before you automatically count as one.
In any case, Netflix appears to have noped out of the discussion itself, having apparently updated their descriptions to potentially mollify everybody. It now reads “Invader. Annihilator. So-called savior.”