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One of the things anthropology is supposed to do is to remind us that there are people in different places and times who essentially occupy a different world than we do. They act differently, think in ways we may find incomprehensible, they certainly look like they belong someplace else, and they passionately believe things we find unbelievable. At Comic-Con, it is well-acknowledged that alternative worlds exist and that knowing about them, being able to imagine them, or acting as if they are here and now is a vital component of living in the world today. At Comic-Con and other similar events, there is no longer a uni-verse; there are either multi-verses or simply “verses.” Many presentations at Comic-Con used the multi-verses concept and many conversations were centered around the veracity or value of some alternative world or another.

The criteria for judging the quality of a different world is whether it is believable, whether it is consistent, coherent, and told stories that could be accepted and understood. This is the same criteria I have been applying to the analysis of Hollywood mainstream movies. The criteria for judging them would be more valuable or productive if they were viewed as constructed worlds that either do or don’t abide by the rules of all worlds: do they make sense, are they consistent, what kinds of stories are they supporting, what are the rules for behavior, why and how do people challenge these rules, what happens when they do. Judging movies, or for that matter any multi-verse experience, as if they were merely entertaining (or not) is to miss how important these constructed narrative worlds are to the way people live out their lives.

Comic-Con was a dramatic demonstration of something anthropology has rarely been able to do: engage people in understanding that the culture we are born into or that we end up living in is only one possibility in a world of endless possibilities. Other worlds are fascinating and the more we know about them, the more vibrant our interaction with beings of all kinds. There are of course exceptions and you may not ever want to be in the middle of a battle of Star Wars vs Star Trek vs Stargate folks but it would be the best demonstration of what anthropology often does in a heavy-handed way: explain how a world works and why its cccupants would defend it to the ends of the universe.