A lot of things have happened in 2018. Entirely too many things, one might say, especially if one made the mistake of allowing push notifications to their phone from multiple news sources. And with that barrage of big huge things constantly barreling toward you, it’s easy to miss the smaller things, and the connections between things. For example, did you realize that there were two separate world-altering finger snaps by powerful non-human entities in pop culture this year? Because there were. One in the summer’s biggest box office blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War, and one in an under-watched-but-beloved network sitcom, The Good Place.
That’s kind of weird, right? That finger-snapping played a huge role in two of the year’s most buzzed about pieces of pop culture? Maybe it’s not as weird as I think it is. I don’t know. Maybe I just want an excuse to write something like “MAYA RUDOLPH VS. THANOS, TWO FINGER-SNAPPING TITANS ENTER, ONE CHAMPION EMERGES.” There’s a really good chance that’s what’s happening here, to be honest. I stand by it.
Let’s break these snaps down.
In one corner, we have Thanos, a monstrous despot from another galaxy who looks like a shaved Grimace on a paleo diet and was on a mission to acquire all of the universe’s infinity stones and lock them into a golden glove that would make him all-powerful. In the other corner, we have Gen (short for Hydrogen), the all-knowing and all-deciding judge who lives in the neutral zone between the good and bad place and is played by Maya Rudolph.
Your first instinct here is probably to give the edge to Thanos because he’s a big beefy warlord who looks like if Barney the Dinosaur had an evil lovechild with Shrek’s mom. He wears armor. He battled Thor in hand-to-hand combat. But consider this: If we accept both of the universes at play here as factual and combine them, that means that Thanos, as a living being, falls under the dominion of Gen, and his fate will be decided by her in the event of his death. That’s real power.
EDGE: The Good Place
The Reason for the Snap
Pretty straightforward, really. And totally opposite. Thanos wants to wipe out half the universe’s population as a way to prevent overuse of resources. Gen wants to put four dead people — Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and my beloved Jason — back on Earth to see if they are capable of becoming better after surviving the tragic accident that killed them the first time.
Want a fun visual: Picture Maya Rudolph sitting at her desk in peace the instant before Thanos snaps his fingers and then picture billions and billions of confused people and aliens just popping up in there. And then picture Maya Rudolph doing a classic Maya Rudolph “oh HELL no” and snapping them all back into existence. And then Thanos snaps them out again. And it just goes on and on for 10 minutes with Maya Rudolph getting more and more furious and Thanos getting more and more perplexed, tapping his glove like it’s malfunctioning or something while Spider-man keeps turning to dust and shrieking “Oh man, Mr. Stark, it’s happening again!”
EDGE: Infinity War, just for the scope
The Snap Itself
… and option two.
It’s wild how similar these were. Both were immediately followed by a flash to white. Both came about suddenly, before anyone was ready for it. The only major difference is that Gen was doing it with the support and encouragement of Michael and Thanos was doing it as Thor was jamming a sharp object through his heart. So I guess, just due to the adversity level…
EDGE: Infinity War
The Result of the Snap
Well, this one is a little tough because both are as-yet unresolved. Thanos did wipe out half of the universe’s population and Gen did send four people back to Earth, yes, but there’s another Infinity War and another season of The Good Place worth of explaining to do. I guess we can look at it two ways. One is to say that, just following the general arc of superhero movies, Thanos’s plan will fail and the snap will be reversed, both because that’s a better ending and because Marvel suuuuuper did not just kill off Spider-man and Black Panther and their accompanying multibillion-dollar franchises. Gen’s snap, on the other hand, will probably serve its purpose in some way, because The Good Place is about learning and growing even if you take a few steps back to make a bigger leap forward. So just looking at potential for desired goal, you gotta give it the edge.
The other way to look at it is to say which will have the most impact, at least in the short term. The obvious answer here is Thanos. Again, half of the universe’s population is gone. But, I mean, Jason Mendoza is back in Jacksonville, too. I really don’t think we can discount how much of an effect that doofus can have on the world, even if it’s just by accident. He could challenge a world leader to a game of Madden online one day and trigger a world war. He could throw a Molotov cocktail at the Pope because he and Pillboi thought the Pope was a rival DJ. Anything is possible. This one is a push at best.
EDGE: The Good Place
We are tied at two categories each, which means we go to our tiebreaker: Who would win in a fight, Maya Rudolph or Thanos?
Congratulations to The Good Place.