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Netflix Sparks Debate Over Infinity War Synopsis

And the Infinity War rages on...

When Marvel's biggest film of 2018, the exhilarating and surprisingly sad superhero ensemble Avengers: Infinity War, hit Netflix on December 25, fans were delighted. A Christmas present from the Home of Heroes and the number-one streaming platform in the world? A chance to watch the super-sized flick in their pajamas, sunk into the corner of their couch and hiding behind a bowl of popcorn where no one could judge them for crying when Spider-Man (Tom Holland) said a tearful goodbye to Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) in the last few minutes of the film? Who wouldn't be excited by that?

Unfortunately, elation turned to outrage when Netflix users discovered that the Infinity War plot summary featured some, er... controversial language. 

At the time the film hit the streaming site, its description read, "Superheroes amass to stop intergalactic sociopath Thanos from acquiring a full set of Infinity Stones and wiping out half of all life in the universe." Many took issue with the use of the phrase "intergalactic sociopath" to describe Thanos, the purple-faced despot who committed mass genocide with the snap of his Infinity Gauntlet-adorned fingers, feeling as though the label didn't completely fit given how subjective and ill-defined the term "sociopath" is. 

Thus, fans did what most everyone does nowadays when they need to blow off steam and have their thoughts heard: headed to Twitter to let it all out.

"The Netflix description for Infinity War describes Thanos as a sociopath. So does this mean that Thanos knows that what he's doing is wrong, but is doing it anyway because he's stubborn?" another tweeted. "Does he *truly* believe that wiping half of life from the universe is key to saving it?"

One Marvel fan was certain that Netflix royally messed up in classifying Josh Brolin's Mad Titan as a sociopath, tweeting, "Really take issue with Netflix categorizing Thanos as a sociopath. He's clearly not." Another agreed, calling Netflix's choice of words a "wrong way of describing him." 

Since there is no official, universally recognized definition for "sociopath," it's difficult to say with absolute certainty whether Thanos is one. Neurobiology and psychology scholar and University of Mississippi professor Jack Pemment detailed in a 2013 article that "the terms psychopath and sociopath are often used interchangeably," and cited Canadian psychologist Robert Hare's psychopathy checklist when writing that psychopathy "means the individual will have no empathy or sense of morality among a number of other traits" while sociopathy is "indicative of having a sense of morality and a well-developed conscience, but the sense of right and wrong is not that of the parent culture." Additionally, Pemment wrote that "sociopaths do have a sense of morality and a sense of right and wrong," which "reflects that they have beliefs about the social world."

Because psychopathy and sociopathy are frequently conflated and because none of us at home can truly know whether Thanos felt bad about eradicating half the universe's population or knew that it was wrong but still did it anyway, it's not hard to see why some fans have confused the alien megalomaniac for being more remorseless psychopath than regret-refusing sociopath. 

"He's a far more dangerous villain than a sociopath — he's obsessed with his own power, and believes what he's doing is right," one fan tweeted, to which another responded, "That's actually a psychopath. Sociopaths can feel empathy and regret but ignore it to achieve their goal. Psychopathy is the absence of, or impaired, empathy. During the movie, Thanos did exhibit signs of remorse. Especially when it came to Gamora ... A sociopath is what he is. He cried. He showed remorse. People are confusing sociopathy with psychopathy. Psycopathy [sic] is the ABSENCE of remorse or empathy."

The result of the exhausting back-and-forth between the tweeting armchair psychiatrists was that many outlets began reporting that Netflix had actually changed the description of the movie and removed the phrasing that sparked such indignation, describing Thanos as "Invader. Annihilator. So-called savior." rather than as a sociopath. The altered summary also skirted around the hero-killing spoiler for anyone who still hasn't seen the film, reading, "As Thanos moves even closer to omnipotence, the fate of the universe rests with the Avengers."

However, to say that Netflix completely removed the controversial synopsis isn't accurate, as it doesn't appear the description has been changed universally. Opening up Infinity War on Netflix reveals the same sociopathic language as ever — at least for some users. Additionally, the original description that categorizes Thanos as a sociopath still shows up in the results on Google when you search for "Avengers: Infinity War on Netflix." 

It's unclear if these reports seem to indicate that Netflix has slowly begun rolling out a changed synopsis, or if some people are just getting confused by the two descriptions that Netflix includes on all of its movies.

Whether he's a sociopath, a psychopath, neither, or just a power-hungry, status-seeking bad guy, Thanos still remains one of the most evil villains the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever known. And, as one fan joked, even if "intergalactic sociopath" isn't the perfect descriptor for Thanos, it would actually make a pretty awesome band name