It's common, when people are having a long discussion stretching across a number of different topics, that something will come up that they disagree on. Most of the time, they'll discuss this for a little bit, then move on to talking about something else.
Not this time. No, this time the argument becomes truly heated. Voices are raised. Curses are spit out. Friends are insulted. Furniture is thrown across the room in fury. Fights break out. No one involved is willing to back down until they convince the others that they are right rightRIGHT, DAMMIT!!
... all over something as mundane and inconsequential as whether or not peanut butter technically counts as a saucenote for the record, it DOESN'T, and if you say otherwise, I'll KILL you.. It's stupid, pointless, and really shouldn't be worth so much passion, but the characters just. Can't. Let it.Go.
Needless to say, Truth in Television - just see Broken Base for a number of media-centric examples (also see Unpleasable Fanbase and Base Breaker, though we don't keep examples for those anymore). Frequently overlaps with Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, the Console and Computer Wars, and Ship-to-Ship Combat.
This is when a Seinfeldian Conversation becomes Serious Business. When it happens in Real Life, (YouTube comments in particular are full of these) it will usually be because the combatants are people with an extremely fragile sense of self worth, and they view their opinion as a source of validation. In other words, they think that if they're wrong (or if someone else disagrees with them) about whether Spider-Man's costume is made of nylon or spandex, it lessens their inherent degree of value as a human being.
Not to be confused with the 1960s Astronauts in Caveman Days comedy Its About Time. Or a Ginger or Mary Ann debate. Not related to Ancient Astronauts.
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Many, many arguments in Knights of the Dinner Table. Whether dwarven women have beards is one that occurs multiple times, with various characters citing evidence from their favorite fantasy novels, games, etc. Sara has grabbed male characters's shirts and threatened physical violence over the issue.
Many issues of Marvel Comics' Marvel Team-Up comics line cashed in on these kinds of arguments. Want to know if Hulk or Thor is stronger? There's an issue where they fight each other.
In Starman #13, one of the Mist's goons has a bizarre conversation with the captive Mikaal about who the best big screen Philip Marlowe was. He then admits that he once murdered a man for daring to claim it was George Montgomery.
Another issue had drugrunners tensely arguing over the best Sondheim musical.
Marvel Universe example from A+X #6: Captain Marvel and Wolverine get into a literal Caveman vs. Astronaut debate during a poker game. Carol, who starts the argument, even mentions that she first heard it on Angel. Made especially relevant since Carol and Logan are, more or less, an astronaut and a caveman respectively.
A random monster then shows up and is asked about it. He picks astronauts because the question had already been answered in Planet of the Apes. Astronaut fought caveman and won.
In Crimson Tide, a fight ensues when one character said that the KirbySilver Surfer was the only true Silver Surfer, and that the Moebius Silver Surfer was shit.
In The Rundown, Beck gets into a debate over whether Mike Tyson could take Muhammad Ali if they were both in their prime. Beck claimed Ali could take Tyson.
One Animorphs book informs us that, when they were younger, Jake and Marco would spend entire afternoons arguing about whether or not cheese tastes yellow (Marco thought it tasted sorta green). Now that they're older, they have more serious, adult debates, like Who Would Win: Spider-Man or Batman?
In Jonathan Swift's Gullivers Travels, there is a war waging between people who break their hard-boiled egg at the fat end (the "big-endians"), and those who break it at the narrow end. (It's a deliberate analogy to Whigs vs Tories in British party politics of Swift's time.)
Similar to the Gulliver's Travels example above, The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss features an allegory for the Cold War being waged over which side of the bread to butter.
The Big Bang Theory has a parody of this in which the guys debate who the bravest person in the Marvel Universe is. Candidates include Captain America's undocumented Mexican gardener, the doctor who gives Wolverine his prostate exam, and whoever uses the bathroom after the Thing.
The Angel episode "A Hole in the World" is the Trope Namer. Wesley walks in on Spike and Angel after they've spent 40 minutes shouting at each other about who would win in a fight between cavemen and astronauts. Pretty soon every one in the show is getting in on the act; it's all built up to the episode's Wham Line: "cavemen win,of course the cavemen win", one character's last words.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Life Serial" has The Trio arguing passionately about James Bond movies. Warren favours Sean Connery and loathes Moonraker, Jonathan prefers Roger Moore, while Andrew likes Timothy Dalton.
Andrew: Timothy Dalton should win an Oscar and BEAT SEAN CONNERY OVER THE HEAD WITH IT!!!
On How I Met Your Mother, Ted brings a picture that could either be a rabbit or a duck to make a point about how a date might seem right for someone but turn out to be wrong, and vice versa. Then the gang disagrees over which represented the bad choice, the duck or the rabbit. According to Older Ted, it was the longest, most intense argument they've ever had. It even drags in their regular limo driver and by the end, Marshall is drenched in sweat.
When Barney and Robin date each other, their relationship seems to be full of these sorts of arguments. Barney once dared Robin to stab a knife through his chest over a fight about which of them should clean the dishes.
One episode had the gang argue over which food is the most common in the United States, they looked up the answer and it turned out they were all wrong.
Seinfeld has Elaine and her boyfriend of the week get into a heated argument leading to their breakup about when it's appropriate to use exclamation points.
In another episode, George and another man try to park in the same Parallel Parking spot at the same time. George insists that the other guy needs to give up the spot because he was trying to pull in front first, and the only civilized way to parallel park is by backing up. The other guy disagrees, and they spend the rest of the night with both their cars halfway in the spot, halfway in the street, arguing over the validity of front-first parking. Everyone who passes by has a strongly held opinion on the issue, even the cops who show up to make them move their cars.
Mike: Hey, pal, you're not getting that space. I mean, I'll sleep in my car if I have to. George: I'll die out here.
While attending the funeral of his current girlfriend's aunt in "The Implant," George ends up getting into an argument about double-dipping that quickly turns violent. It eventually gets so intense, his girlfriend angrily breaks up with him and throws him out of the house.
Hank and Davis of Corner Gas apparently have a long-standing debate over who is cooler - Darth Maul or Darth Vader. Davis supports the Vader side and staunchly believes that everyone just thinks Darth Maul is cool because he has a double lightsaber.
The Spike TV show Deadliest Warrior is ALL ABOUT this trope. The premise of the show is to pit two types of "Warriors" from different time periods against each other to see who would win; it is almost embarrassing to see how seriously some of the experts think their warrior is just the best.
Subverted from time to time, though. Occasionally Manipulative Editing is used to make things look more hostile than they actually are, and in a few cases (SWAT vs. GSG9, SEALs vs. Israeli Commandos) the teams acknowledge that they don't REALLY hate each other. Also, it's entirely possible that silly performances by the visiting experts are encouraged by the producers.
There is an episode of Married... with Children in which a riot breaks out amongst the members of NOMAAM over the question of who starred in the first lite beer commercial.
In the Cheers episode "The Triangle," the bar regulars (who frequently debate mundane topics) get into an intense discussion of Roadrunner-Coyote cartoons. The argument escalates from whether the coyote is obsessed or simply hungry, to whether his ability to survive falling off a cliff indicates he's the Antichrist.
In the pilot they had a debate over which Hollywood movie had the most sweat in it. Candidates included Body Heat, Aliens and Ben Hur ("The boys in the galley were sweating like pigs.") Diane's fiance suggested Cool Hand Luke.
In Community Jeff and Britta spend an entire evening arguing with each other over which bar is better place for Troy to have his first drink when turns twenty-one, "Red Door" or "L Street". Troy looks up to both Jeff and Britta as two different ways to be cool and mature, but becomes infuriated when they all learn that "Red Door" and "L Street" are the same bar, meaning that their argument (And thus the entire competing lifestyles represented by Jeff and Britta) is meaningless since they are just slapping different terms onto the same things.
And again when it comes out that Jeff is the only member of the study group that dislikes the band Barenaked Ladies. Hilariously, they're having this argument at the exact same time they're arguing over something actually important, and treating it with more gravity.
Night Court had a case involving a riot at a Star Trek convention between fans over which was better: the Original Series or the Next Generation.
A running joke in Ricky Gervais' Extras. The main character and his best friend would ask each other questions like, "what would you rather be? A penguin, where you are a bird but you can't fly, or a flying fish where you can fly but you're still a fish." Once or twice an episode.
Mythbusters addressed one of these that was going on at their own website; namely "Can a plane take off if it's on a conveyor belt running in the opposite direction?" They tested it, and concluded that yes, it can; forward motion is driven by the propeller and how the wheels interact with the ground is irrelevant.
Mythbusters in general plays host to a lot of myths born of such subjects. Particularly trying to test the legitimacy of taking idioms literally.
Another time, they tested what would happen if a truck was traveling at 60 miles per hour and a ball was ejected from the back of the truck at the same speed. It fell vertically from the point where it was fired. The forward motion of the truck and the aft motion of the ball-launcher cancelled each other out.
Yet another test involved the double-dipping claim from Seinfeld above; they ruled that double-dipping didn't add all that many mouth-germs to a dip.
Supernatural: Sam and Dean Winchester have their own version of this as shown in the episode "Death's Door" with Chuck Norris vs. Jet Li. They also argue over which movie snacks are the best and who was a better stooge, Curly vs Shemp.
Have I Got News for You: Quite often Paul Merton would indulge in this; once having a (seemingly) aggressive shouting match with Arthur Smith over whether or not you should put tomato sauce on baked beans.
Ookla the Mok's "Stop Talking About Comic Books or I'll Kill You":
In an interview with Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton discussed this essentially happening in politics. When you have two similar candidates (in this case Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton), the campaign becomes about stressing the minor differences between them. That can lead to them passionately stressing and arguing about a stance that the candidates don't actually find that important.
Heck, any random, small, and otherwise irrelevant, difference in political, philosophical or religious views could turn into this. We could give examples of this, but we're not going to.
Edit Wars are often built off of relatively minor differences in wording, phrasing, or detail.
Even this wiki isn't immune: Timey-Wimey Ball once had the line, "debating which time travel theory is right is much like trying to find the best flavor of ice cream". After over fifty different edits of what the best flavor of ice cream actually was, the joke was removed.
There was actually a Supreme Court decision about whether the tomato should be considered a fruit or a vegetable for tax purposes.
Similarly, the makers of Jaffa Cakes went to court in the UK to prove that they are actually cakes, which aren't taxed in the UK, rather than biscuits which are (but only if they have chocolate on them: that means that they're considered luxury items - unlike cakes, apparently). No it doesn't really make sense. The company managed to prove that Jaffa Cakes are indeed cakes by A: Showing that Jaffa Cakes, like other cakes, will go stale if left out (if they were biscuits they would go soft) and B: Making an extra large Jaffa Cake which was then served as a regular cake. That hasn't stopped debates raging up and down the country; tea and biscuits (or cakes) really are Serious Business in Britain. As silly it looks for an average person, for multinational companies product classifications may translate to millions in taxes and customs.
The entirety of the internet. It doesn't matter if you're on YouTube, TV Tropes, That Guy With The Glasses, or even on argument central that is 4Chan, you will always, somehow, somewhere for some reason find a group of people arguing over the most inane, insane and stupidest things imaginable. And for the record, while Punisher truly is superior to Batman, Batman would still beat Iron Man in a fight.
In Bravely Default Agnes and Edea start going at it in an epic argument about which dessert is the best. Tiz and Ringabel are naturally exasperated at this.
In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Rose reflects on her first meeting with Raiden in New York City. Rose was misdirecting some tourists to the Chrysler Building, thinking it was the centerpiece of King Kong. Raiden, a movie buff, overheard this and the pair got into a shouting match until the tourists fled.
Subverted in this Joyce and Walky strip, where Sal assumes the argument going on is about a stupid subject but it's really about serious philosophical questions.
This trope is pretty much the whole reason Death Battle exists. They use science to calculate who would win, with a hefty dose of how the characters in question normally fight. Wonder Woman hitting Rogue in the face is normal fighting style for her, while Spider-Man's spider-sense negates Batman's favored "sneak up on them" technique. There are still those who argue the results.
In "I Dated a Robot", the gang is walking through cyberspace and pass a Star Trek forum, where two nerds are in the midst of a heated "Kirk vs. Picard" debate.
In an episode of G.I. Joe, the Dreadnoks can be seen in the background having come to blows over whether a certain product was a breath mint or a candy mint.
In Drakken's origin episode of Kim Possible, he is shocked to find out that Kim is Dr. Possible's daughter, Dr. Possible having been someone he knew in high school and one of the people he is attempting to take revenge upon. When Ron (who is currently Drakken's prisoner) makes fun of him for not making the connection, Drakken defends himself on the basis that "Possible is a very common last name." Drakken ends up leaving the room in order to get a phone book just to back up his argument, causing him to miss the fact that rescuers are breaking into the building.
In one episode of Sealab 2021, the entire crew of Sealab get caught up in an argument about the hypothetical possibility of transferring their minds into robot bodies. So caught up that they don't notice that all of Sealab's safety systems are catastrophically failing.
Who cares, Pod 6 was full of jerks anyway.
In The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat", Wade Boggs is knocked out cold by Barney after the two argue over who's the best British Prime Minister of all time.
Barney: And I say England's greatest Prime Minister was Lord Palmerston! Wade Boggs: Pitt the Elder! Barney: LORD PALMERSTON! Boggs: PITT! THE! ELDER! Barney: Okay, you asked for it, Boggs! [punches out Boggs] Moe: Yeah, that's showin' 'im, Barn! [mockingly] "Pitt the Elder"... Barney: LORD PALMERSTON! [punches out Moe]
Another episode has Ned Flanders say that his denomination of Christianity (The Northwest Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism) split off from the Catholic Church several centuries ago over the right of worshippers to come to church with wet hair. He then sheepishly admits that his denomination has since abolished that right.
Henchmen #21 and #24 seem to have these debates a lot. Another episode showed them arguing over whether or not Smurfs lay eggs.
Not only 21 and 24, but the creative minds behind the show themselves have these kind of debates all the time. In one commentary track Doc references a heated argument they had about what woman was hotter: Fiona Apple or Jewel. Another time on a convention panel, a fan wanted to know their opinions on the Lizzie Borden v. Anne Frank debate but accidentally asked their opinions on a Helen Keller v. Anne Frank debate. The results can be seen here at 6:49.
Sponge Bob Square Pants had a more or less literal example of this, when Patchy the Pirate and Potty the Parrot get into an argument of whether "Prehistory" or "The Future" is better.
The episode "The Battle Of Bikini Bottom" begins with two war reenacters explaining to SpongeBob and Patrick the titular battle, which was apparently fought over washing one's hands. This starts the two friends discussing cleanliness (SpongeBob is pro-clean, Patrick is not), and soon engage in a battle of their own.
South Park has an episode where two Star Trek nerds intensely debate as to whether a two-parter counted as one or two episodes, overshadowing their co-invention of a time machine.