The optimist sees a light at the end of the tunnel,
the realist sees a train entering the tunnel,
the pessimist sees a train speeding at him, hell for leather,
and the machinist sees three idiots sitting on the tracks.
"The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears this is true."
— James Branch Cabell, The Silver Stallion.
Which best solves problems? The Power of Friendship
, or a bullet between the eyes
The answer depends on where the series falls in the Sliding Scale Of Idealism Versus Cynicism.
A story can be idealistic or cynical towards any idea. In general, if the story values or is hopeful for a particular ideal, then it is idealistic. If the story criticizes, assaults, and accentuates the negative
about that expectation, then it is cynical.
For a simple, archetypal example, let's assume that the idea to believe in is Humans Are Good
/Rousseau Was Right
. In idealistic series, those who believed it
got lots of friends
and a Happy Ending
(therefore, Right Makes Might
), while cynical series are Crapsack Worlds
where those who believed it
got ruthlessly bullied by everyone else
(therefore, Might Makes Right
). Of course, the definitions of "Right" and "Crapsack" in the above can technically mean whatever one wants them to mean.
However, be careful not to confuse idealism with straw optimism
, cynicism with straw pessimism
, and the scale as a whole with the Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness
. Also note that when this applies to characters, this does not mean good or evil. After all, it's perfectly possible for an idealist to be evil
, and a cynic to be good
. Likewise, a very cynical series could be quite lighthearted
(see also: Crapsaccharine World
), conversely a very idealistic series could be extremely dark
. It's also true that comedies
can be cynical as all hell (see also: Satire
), and dark dramas can end idealistic
(see also: A World Half Full
See also: The Idealist
and The Cynic
for the archetypal characters. For how both sides often portray each other, see Wide-Eyed Idealist
/Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!
, and Grumpy Bear
/Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!
. See Cynicism Tropes
, and Idealism Tropes
for lists of each.
This particular sliding scale can be the topic of fierce debate. Each person will have a different point which they tend towards. Therefore, this scale is most useful in targeting demographics and those who are sympathetic to a certain world view, and identifying where on the spectrum one's own work is.
describes a shift from comedy to drama and this often also results in a shift from idealism to cynicism. Reverse Cerebus Syndrome
is the inversion. When shows Zig Zag
between the two, they're on a Cerebus Roller Coaster