Fantasy worlds and culture shock

FAN: Discuss various fictional worlds that don't qualify for SF.

Moderator: Steve

Most culture shock

Eberron (D&D)
1
13%
Mystara (D&D)
0
No votes
the Marvel Universe
0
No votes
the Earth of DragonBall
1
13%
the Poke'mon World
2
25%
Spira (Final Fantasy X)
0
No votes
Ivalice (Final Fantasy XII)
1
13%
the world of Avatar: the Last Airbender
1
13%
Kaladesh (Magic: the Gathering) (magitech setting ruled by technocrats)
0
No votes
Ravinca (Magic: the Gathering) (fantasy Coruscant)
2
25%
 
Total votes: 8

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Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Formless » 2017-01-09 08:10pm

So I was just playing through a random "portal opens up between the Earth and fictional world X" game in my head and an interesting question came to mind: if a bunch of portals to one or more fantasy worlds really did open up to the real world Earth, certainly there would be quite a culture shock in store for both the inhabitants of that world and our own! Obviously a portal to another dimension will have that effect. But then I got to thinking-- which fantasy world would be the most shocking to us? We read about them or play games within them all the time, but that is different because they remain fictional. If that stopped being the case, their practices and beliefs would certainly be quite different from our own and vice verse. But some would be more similar and others less similar, and there are small things to think about as well that might be shocking-- hence, culture shock.

So, which of the fantasy worlds listed would cause the largest culture shock on Earth given the differences and similarities between their values and expectations, and which would cause the least? Note that all of the ones I listed here are examples of Superhero, urban fantasy, steampunk, or gaslight fantasy because I feel like it would be too easy if I just listed worlds like World of Warcraft that are still pre-Renaissance and high in magic. Don't feel bad if you aren't familiar with all of the worlds listed (and DC comics would be up there if there wasn't a 10 options limit, BTW), just mark whichever one you think would cause the greatest shock, and explain why in your post. And if you feel like there is a world that would generate more culture shock than any of the ones I listed, feel free to name them and explain why.

As a corollary, which world would experience the greatest culture shock from seeing Earth's culture for the first time? Again, pre-Rennaissance settings are probably too easy for this one, so try and limit it to steampunk, urban fantasy, superhero, and gaslight fantasy settings.

Note that this isn't a question about how Earth would react; i.e. I'm not asking about how Earth would react politically or militarily. You can talk about how political expectations effect culture shock, though.
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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Zixinus » 2017-01-10 05:56am

Of the worlds I know, Pokemon would be most shocking due to the casual allowance of what are essentially super-powered animals and where fighting is so deeply ingrained in the culture that they let barely-teens run around doing it. I wouldn't rate myself as an animal rights advocate yet I look at it without thinking "animal abuse". Plus the destruction and stuff that regularly happen due to pokemon in the cartoons (when originally, they were supposed to be hand-sized).
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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Formless » 2017-01-15 09:45pm

Okay, since its been almost a week and only one person has responded and four have voted (besides myself), would it help it the question were more region specific or something? Just asking, because I am genuinely surprised this thread hasn't gotten more attention.

Or maybe its because people are just getting off vacation right now, heh.
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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Zixinus » 2017-01-16 02:07am

My problem is that I am unfamiliar with over half of these worlds, so I am unsure how an Earther would react to being in most of them. Or vice versa.

Gauging potential culture shock is also a problem. Not everyone even knows what that's really like. It heavily depends on the individual and how they are introduced to things.

A problem is that lot of these (I guess) are American-made fantasy worlds, which means that most of them are actually (often without the author really thinking about it) have American values. So the culture shock might not be as surprising as one would think.
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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby FaxModem1 » 2017-01-16 03:02am

The D&D worlds might be a bit of a big shock, they can resurrect people if they are rich enough. Making death somewhat less of a concern, they can also directly talk to their gods and have miracles on command.

The Marvel universe is rather like ours, so rather easy to adjust to, aside from the super-tech, but that could be gotten used to.

Dragonball....Never watched it, no idea.

Pokemon will be considered odd, while they have a culture very similar to ours, but they don't blink at exiling a child out of their home at age 10 and making them go on walkabout for the rest of their life capturing, breeding, and cage fighting monsters. Animal rights groups will have fits, of course. There's also the fact that there are 'Legendary Pokemon', which are essentially the gods of their world.

Never played FFX, but we'll be very curious how their sport works, as in reality, players would drown playing their version of water polo.

Ivalice will be a game of dealing with expansionist powers. They are rather cosmopolitan, so more cosmopolitan societies will understand them a bit, but the magic will trip us up a bit.

Avatar the Last Airbender: It really depends on the era. If set during Aang's time, they are going to be very puzzled by our technology. We will also see a lot of discrimination, as non-benders can be devalued in their society, and our entire world is full of them.

Don't know anything about the worlds of Magic: The Gathering.
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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Formless » 2017-01-16 03:31am

Zixinus wrote:My problem is that I am unfamiliar with over half of these worlds, so I am unsure how an Earther would react to being in most of them. Or vice versa.

Ah, I see. I just went with worlds I was (mostly) familiar with or thought others might know enough about to comment on. I guess my repertoire is a bit different from your own. But also, like I said, I thought that pre-industrial or pre-renaissance worlds would just be too easy, since its obvious that we're an outside context problem for them, and most writers like to copy feudal Europe but with magic. I actually did have a hard time thinking of popular steampunk works (that I knew anything about, at least).

But if you have any suggestions for fantasy worlds worth talking about that I'm also unaware of, feel free to bring them up. :)

Gauging potential culture shock is also a problem. Not everyone even knows what that's really like. It heavily depends on the individual and how they are introduced to things.

A problem is that lot of these (I guess) are American-made fantasy worlds, which means that most of them are actually (often without the author really thinking about it) have American values. So the culture shock might not be as surprising as one would think.

I guess that is kind of an issue, yeah. But culture shock isn't just about values, but also differing expectations. For example, when I was younger there was a priest that was brought in to my church from Africa by the Archdioceses, and one major source of culture shock for him was simply seeing a supermarket. Just... the sight of so much food in one marketplace was amazing to him. It was so out of context from what he was used to, he never apparently truly got used to the idea. It had nothing to do with values, just with the difference in experiences between growing up in an impoverished country and moving to a very rich one. While its certainly individual, I'm sure there are at least some things that can be predicted for culture-at-large. The objective existence of magic in most of these settings is a big one, I imagine.

FaxModem1 wrote:Avatar the Last Airbender: It really depends on the era. If set during Aang's time, they are going to be very puzzled by our technology. We will also see a lot of discrimination, as non-benders can be devalued in their society, and our entire world is full of them.

Lets say the time between the war with the Fire Nation and Korra's era, when Aang was still alive but the Fire nation was no longer an expansionist power and innovations like combustion engines and radio were being developed. What about then?

Don't know anything about the worlds of Magic: The Gathering.

Don't worry about it. There isn't enough time in the world to be knowledgeable about everything. :)
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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Zixinus » 2017-01-16 08:19am

With Avatar, people might be surprised about the sheer amount of trash and pollution. That world has actual spirits that manifest themselves if there is too much environmental damage. We saw radios and things around but I think that technology likely is more environmental-friendly (plus, having access to magic like using firebenders to create electricity).
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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Formless » 2017-01-16 02:01pm

I don't know about that-- we know they use coal and gasoline, and I think they said somewhere lightning benders were only needed during during peak hours. Ba-Sing-Se was pretty damn dirty in the poorer districts. And heck, during the Fire Nation war we saw the main cast have to actually pretend to be a spirit in order to scare a Fire nation factory that was polluting a river. Until Korra opened the spirit portals, I don't think spirits could get into the mortal world very easily.

Of the worlds I listed, the ones who seem to have the cleanest energy sources would be Poke'mon (Kalos even has beaming solar power stations in space; Kanto appears to be one of the last holdouts of coal power), Kaladesh (since their technology is powered by Aether), and Eberron (technology powered by pure magic and living elementals). Spira might actually be the dirtiest, at least in the past/future, because in X-2 they are on the cusp of discovering how to harness the same power source as in Final Fantasy VII (sucking life force directly from the planet and afterlife).
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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-01-17 04:09am

Formless wrote:
Zixinus wrote:My problem is that I am unfamiliar with over half of these worlds, so I am unsure how an Earther would react to being in most of them. Or vice versa.

Ah, I see. I just went with worlds I was (mostly) familiar with or thought others might know enough about to comment on. I guess my repertoire is a bit different from your own. But also, like I said, I thought that pre-industrial or pre-renaissance worlds would just be too easy, since its obvious that we're an outside context problem for them, and most writers like to copy feudal Europe but with magic. I actually did have a hard time thinking of popular steampunk works (that I knew anything about, at least).
I know this is off topic, but it led me to an interesting realization. Steampunk has achieved tremendous 'spread' within the population (at least the population of nerdy people), without there being any single definitive flagship example you can point to and say "this is steampunk" that nearly everyone knows and that fully encompasses the genre.

Space opera? Star Wars and Star Trek are the infinitely famous bookends of the field.

Urban fantasy? Dresden files

But steampunk? Steampunk has a thousand little examples, not one big one. You can point to a ton of examples, but to really give someone who's never heard of steampunk before a clear concept of what the genre includes takes a bit of doing.

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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Kingmaker » 2017-01-17 10:56am

I think you can make a strong case for Ravnica being the weirdest. Many of these cultures closely resemble bits of Earth's past, e.g. Eberron's resemblance to the early 20th century as filtered through a fantasy lens. Ravnica, on the other hand, gets pretty odd with their legal system, aggressive recycling practices, and fractured system of government.

You can point to a ton of examples, but to really give someone who's never heard of steampunk before a clear concept of what the genre includes takes a bit of doing.


Well, that's partly because it's not just vaguely defined - there's still quite a bit of fighting over what is really 'steampunk'. The nature of the genre is contentious in a way that I don't think cyberpunk ever was.
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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby LadyTevar » 2017-01-17 05:24pm

I voted Ivalice, which is not just FFXII but also the world where all the Final Fantasy Tactics games are set, for the following reasons.

1. Non-humans are (mostly) equal citizens, such as the Bangaa (lizard-like, but not lizards), the Moogles (small winged white-furred rodents(?)), the Nu Muu (canine-like), and the Viera (humanoid rabbits). There are two other races, not seen as 'civilized': the Garif (semi-nomad herdsmen, furred, horned, and always masked), and the Seeq (pig-like, clannish, often unskilled laborers).

2. Floating Terrain. Due to magic rocks, parts of Ivalice float at mountaintop level or higher. These rocks are mined and used to power most Ivalice technology, such as airships.

3. Dangerous wildlife. Hello Cactaur, you harmless-looking cactus of 10,000 needles. You're the cute and fuzzy one out of the lot.
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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Zwinmar » 2017-01-18 04:38pm

I'd have to go with anything with a big non-human population. Everything else can either be rationalized away or there is a rough equivalent.

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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Formless » 2017-01-18 05:02pm

That's an interesting point. It would certainly favor the D&D, Final Fantasy, and Magic: the Gathering settings. But, it begets the question: what about monsters and spirits? Yeah, sure, a Pikachu might be analogous to some terrestrial rodents if you ignore its electrical abilities, but there is nothing equivalent to a dragon or, as of the most recent poke'mon games, the Ultra Beasts, let alone the weirder spirits from Avatar. Do these qualify as "significant non-human populations", or does that statement only cover sentient beings?

Simon_Jester wrote:But steampunk? Steampunk has a thousand little examples, not one big one. You can point to a ton of examples, but to really give someone who's never heard of steampunk before a clear concept of what the genre includes takes a bit of doing.

Yeah, I admit, I hadn't even come across the term "gaslight fantasy" until shortly before I wrote the OP, but it seems like it covers a lot of material that lacks the "grit" and attitude of Punk stories and artwork.

Though some of the Final Fantasy games might be applicable, like Final Fantasy VI. VII and X might have technology that's a bit too modern or sci-fi to really justify the "steam" part of the name.

There is definitely a lot of overlap between different categories of fantasy that does not apply to science fiction subgenres.
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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Q99 » 2017-01-26 09:30pm

FaxModem1 wrote:The D&D worlds might be a bit of a big shock, they can resurrect people if they are rich enough. Making death somewhat less of a concern, they can also directly talk to their gods and have miracles on command.


Mystara, yes. Eberron, no. The Gods are not nearly such a known factor, and resurrection magic is incredibly rare- pretty much every being who could do so is stuck in one place (i.e. the leader of the Church of the Silver Flame *only* has magic on that level inside her church).

Eberron is in a lot of ways the most us-like of the D&D setting. They have railroad and even some flight. They use their magic to make technology to fight their wars for them. They have businesses and organizations more important than nobility or the like.

There'd still be two-way shock, but not nearly as much as with Mystara and it's kingdoms and small circles of epic level characters who shape world events. At least with Eberron, our world and Khorvaire would soon experience the mutual sensation of companies trying to make the best deals with each other to funnel magic/technology to their world.


---

I'd say the Magic worlds tend to be culturally weirder, since the way magic works tends to be more engrained in their society. A lot of D&D is still pseudo-medieval/feudal, where you've got kings, peasants... stuff we don't have, but do understand. Magic worlds are likely to have magic guilds based on colors or alliances between colors, different species intermixed, and tend to quite unusual.

----

The Dragonball world is very modern, the two unusual techs being flying cars and capsules (which allow the storage of stuff in, well, tiny capsules). Some people look like dogs or whatever, but are still people. Then you have a tiny handful of individuals who can kill cities or worlds, but who's presence is fairly unknown to 99% of the populace since they don't advertise. Like, on their world, they go, "Wha...? Son Goku...?" with a small minority of tournament buffs who say, "Oh yea! He won a martial arts tournament a few years before Mr. Satan hit the scene, didn't he?". Overall, culture shock would be very minimal, less than the Pokemon world to be sure- though it'd be pretty shocking the first time a high-powered incident occurred.

Lesse, in the history of dragonball, the high-power events that'd be of note, from the POV of the populace.... King Piccolo blew up a city and declared himself ruler of the earth. Nappa blew up a city many years later, and ripped up a military task force. Two years after that, Dr. Gero killed half a city, then Cell depopulated several more and challenged the world's fighters to one-on-one combat or he'd destroy the Earth, and he was stopped by the valiant efforts of Mr. Satan, who also reassured the people many of his powers were tricks. Finally, a good number of years after that, a whole bunch of energy beams came down and killed everyone, but everyone returned to life and were fine, and Mr. Satan called on everyone to lend their energy for a gigantic attack to kill the perpetrator, Buu.

So, that'd be weird. But, none of these incidents ever last very long at all, and they're often resolved about as soon as you hear of them. I'd say the least culture shocky of them all. Well, maybe barring Marvel, which is our world, plus superheroes and an irrational hatred of mutants.


--

I'd say Pokemon would have a lot of shock because talking to people, it'd seem so similar, but then so *much* of how their base society functions and the *assumptions behind it* are different. They use pokemon for so much, their base view of raising children is different, their governments (such as they are) are different, their priorities are different.... even their criminals are often quite different, I can imagine our organized trying to link up with one of the criminal Teams only to be in for a rude shock when it turns out the team has some bizarre goal behind it's actions.

Some of the others like Mystara and the Magic worlds are very different at a glance, and are very different, but Pokemon gets points for being different but very much the same. We'd go in with our guards down and then things'd get weird.

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Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Formless » 2017-01-27 06:07pm

So I guess its time I reveal my own thoughts and feelings on the matter, and the world I voted as the most shocking.

-----------------

I went into this knowing only a little bit about Eberron and Mystara, but I agree that Eberron wouldn't be all that shocking despite the high prevalence of magic. They are so industrialized that indeed, the most shocking thing would actually be just the fact that the world is filled with so many sentient beings like elves and Warforged. Obviously, Earth only has humans, and even then there are racial tensions in our world. Seeing any world where there are outright multiple species that manage to mostly get along would be surprising even to non-racists in our world. To racists, well... you get the idea.

Mystara would be worse, because while there are places with lost technology and so forth, it not only stays more true to D&D's high levels of magical weirdness, to top it all off the geography is the same as Earth. Its implied that Mystara is, like Middle Earth, our world some time in either the past or future. So... that's a thing. It would call into question just what happened to that world and what that means for Earth.

-----------------

The Marvel universe is one I put in there more wondering what those who know comics think. I agree that it probably wouldn't be that shocking, because yes, it is pretty much our world with the same countries even. DC would probably be a bit more shocking insofar as everyone seems to take vigilantism for granted, whereas at least in Marvel it tends to draw in some ammount of controversy. One thing I will say would be shocking is that in both universes, alien life is a confirmed fact. Who knows what that would mean to people?

-----------------

Dragonball I threw in there in part because I thought it would be silly, and silly can sometimes be fun to think about. Really, though, its true that the population is pretty blind to superpowered stuff in Dragonball, much like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If Goku and company manage to keep their secret superheroism, well, secret, then yeah, it would be pretty blase. But on the other hand, if it ever got out there would be the double shock that not only are there superpowered aliens around, everyone is so goddamn stupid that they can't figure it out.. Except the King, apparently. As I recall, he at least knows Goku is superpowered, if not a bit more than that.

-----------------

Spira would be in for more of a shock than we would be in for seeing Spira. At the time of the first game they are a technophobic society dominated by a corrupt religion, which means that all of Earth is basically filled with heretics. As of the second game, they are in a transitionary period where the church is discredited and technology is being reembraced, but they are confused as to what to do now that their society no longer has survival as their primary concern. So our world, where survival is only a concern because we are a threat to ourselves, would look both appealing and disconcerting at the same time.

Ivalice on the other hand is pretty much just like Eberron IMO. Mainly I think they would understand us, and we would only be confused by all the strange magic and monsters. Its no higher on my list for this reason than the D&D settings.

----------------

The world of Avatar I feel goes somewhere above the superhero worlds insofar as half the citizenry is superpowered to the point it dominates politics and defines sovereign nations. Especially because these divisions have for centuries been enforced by one individual, the Avatar, in the Avatar's personal belief that the balance of power was best served by dividing the nations up by their elemental affiliation. You also have a religious component here, because the spiritualism of the world is also very Asian in nature, with no God-with-a-capital-G, but a living human being that nonetheless is assigned divine authority and whose power trancends politics. Nothing like that exists in our world or in most of the other worlds listed, even the Superhero worlds. If anything, if you compare the Avatar's role to that of Superman, Superman would be appalled by the Avatar's actions in determining political boundaries and deciding what wars are just or unjust. And I think that most people in our world (especially politicians) would find the idea pretty insane, especially when they realize that the Avatar could be someone as meek as Aang, nonchelant as Kuruk, or outright hotheaded as Korra.

Meanwhile, the very lack of an Avatar, bending, or spirits would make Earth look terrifyingly strange to them, possibly even to the point of opening the door to existential questions they would never think to ask otherwise. Questions about what a nation really represents when here is a world where sovereignty works so very differently. I mean, look at how many nations they have, vs how many nations Earth has. Five to hundreds. Oh, and we have nukes and a history of massive political instability. To a world as generally stable as theirs where everyone seems relatively certain about their place in the world, we look like a powder keg with a lighning rod stuck in it for no explicable reason.

----------------

As for the worlds of M:tG, Kaladesh clearly isn't that shocking. They have technology just like us, they actually have strict laws about the use of magic/spellcasting, they have mass transit systems, skyscrapers, aircraft, power grids, everything. Their culture might raise eyebrows, though, in that Aetherborn only came into existence a couple decades ago when they perfected aether refinement technology and no one seems bothered by this. For them, Earth would not be so much shocking as it would represent an exciting opportunity to discover all sorts of new engineering principles to exploit and make their lives even better. Things like solar panels would be extremely exciting, especially for the local dissident movement who are dissatisfied with the way the government controls the power grid. About hte only thing that would be shocking for them about Earth is just how damn ignorant everyone here seems to be about how our own technology works. JUst about everyone on Kaladesh seems to be either employed as an inventor, engineer, or at least dabbles in artifice as a hobby.

Ravinca, on the other hand, is like the world of Avatar on steroids as far as culture shock goes. First you have a world government, only that government is fragmented into ten guilds that are always at each other's throats at all times. You have a figure like the Avatar, the Living Guildpact. Only problem is, Jace is secretly a planeswalker and constantly runs off to other worlds to do heroic nonsense, so how the place manages to remain stable is anyone's guess. And Ravinca has more sentient races than you can shake a stick at, all of which have equal citizenship worldwide. Basically, it represents everything shocking about the world of Avatar to us and then some.

----------------

And for my actualy vote, you can probably guess by now that I went with the world of Poke'mon. I'm not really sure what to say that Q99 didn't, honestly. It has Earth's geography, just like Mystara, but with the added twist that the people have modern and even science fiction technology. It appears to have a worldwide police agency that, unlike Interpol in real life, has powers of arrest worldwide. People eat Poke'mon. Which wouldn't be weird except that they are also utterly fascinated by Poke'mon and Poke'mon training (though not everyone is a trainer, everyone definitely owns them as pets); though of course that just highlights Earth's own strange relationship with animals. Actually, I don't think their reliance on Poke'mon is completely unprecidented in Earth's own history. Basically every culture on Earth was at one point reliant upon animal labor, but modern technology has rendered most of those applications of horses and other animals obsolete and few people in our world are used to that way of thinking anymore. Poke'mon are superpowered, though, and pokeballs make it so that even wild untamed species can be harnessed to do useful work in a world with advanced technology. And then there is the attitude towards animal combat, which again isn't unprecidented in our world but is definitely something we've moved away from in the twentieth century.

I can only wonder what people in their world would think of MMA. :lol: Probably not so strange, actually. Its not like they don't punch each other in the face, too.

Not every place in their world has all of the elements that make it so strange to us (in the Poke'mon Ranger games we see some places have bans on catching and training Poke'mon with pokeballs for reasons of environmental conservation or cultural opposition), but they are such exceptions to the rule that there would be no way of getting around it. Its just plain strange, yet so oddly familiar as a world. And I can't help but feel that the culture shock would mostly go one way here. Most people in their world aren't actually trainers, just like most people in our world aren't professional fighters. Its just that the closest thing our society has to Poke'mon training is pretty niche and follows a very, very different ethos.
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The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

Q99
Jedi Knight
Posts: 995
Joined: 2015-05-16 01:33pm

Re: Fantasy worlds and culture shock

Postby Q99 » 2017-01-27 11:48pm

I haven't drawn a conclusion yet, but I do think Pokemon is a top contender, along with Ravinca and Mystara.

Formless wrote:Dragonball I threw in there in part because I thought it would be silly, and silly can sometimes be fun to think about. Really, though, its true that the population is pretty blind to superpowered stuff in Dragonball, much like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If Goku and company manage to keep their secret superheroism, well, secret, then yeah, it would be pretty blase. But on the other hand, if it ever got out there would be the double shock that not only are there superpowered aliens around, everyone is so goddamn stupid that they can't figure it out.. Except the King, apparently. As I recall, he at least knows Goku is superpowered, if not a bit more than that.


Here's the thing: Goku isn't a hero like Superman. Superman saves the world and stops all kinds of crimes. Goku fights people who want to threaten the world, but interacts with normal crime barely at all. He spends years training. He lives in the boonies. There's no active presence until Great Saiyaman (i.e. Gohan) shows up on the scene, and he only does a little crime fighting as a hobby.

Goku is superpowered, but he really does nothing worth noticing 98% of the time. It's not that they can't figure it out if they see him, it's just it honestly doesn't affect their lives or even intersect with it to the point that most people probably haven't seen a single flying person in their life outside of Cell on TV. You literally have to travel far into the wilderness to run into most of the crew with a few exceptions like Vegeta- who is either going to be wearing a normal shirt at Bulma's place, locked inside some high-gravity chamber, or he's going to be off in some remote wilderness self training.

Heck, Yamcha lives in the city and he... doesn't use his abilities to the point people think he's an ordinary baseball player. Which strikes me as massively unfair considering his superspeed, but whatever.


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