Anyone else still thinking about that Black Mirror guinea pig?

A Black Mirror Fan Theory

This post is part of Fan Theory Fridays, in which we share and explore a new fan theory about a film, television series, book, or other fictional narrative.

Like a lot of people, I like the show Black Mirror. I enjoy watching it, even when it’s overly dark or predictable or not quite as smart as it thinks it is.

But if there’s one episode of Black Mirror that I have a particularly hard time with, it’s the fourth season’s “Crocodile”. My frustration is not over the bleakness of the episode, nor the the violence.

crocodile
This episode.

Sure, it’s a bleak and brutal episode: by the end of it, central character has murdered four people, including a child. But that’s okay. It’s Black Mirror and Black Mirror is a brutal, unapologetic show. At least half the episodes end with an escalation into hopelessness, fueled by technology and desperation.

The real issue with “Crocodile”

Again, this desperation and cynicism is not what frustrates me about the episode “Crocodile”. If I wanted optimism and reassurance, I wouldn’t be watching Black Mirror. Continue reading “Anyone else still thinking about that Black Mirror guinea pig?”

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The Departed Fan Theory: Mark Wahlberg’s Dignam Used to Be Nice

Another edition of Fan Theory Fridays

This post is part of Fan Theory Fridays, in which we share and explore a new fan theory about a film, television series, book, or other fictional narrative. For more on what a fan theory is—and what it isn’t—please read D. F. Lovett’s previous explorations of the subject.

During a recent viewing of The Departed—a film I saw twice in theaters, have blogged about before, and have seen somewhere between 10 and 1000 times—something occurred to me. Something I hadn’t considered before. A question that seemed unanswered.

That question is this: was Staff Sergeant Dignam normally a nice guy?

“Maybe. Maybe Not. Maybe Fuck Yourself.”

This fan theory’s origin rests in one simple, throwaway line delivered by Alec Baldwin as Ellerby. The line occurs around the 25 minute mark. Baldwin delivers it at the end of a briefing scene, during which Dignam insults a team of cops investigating Frank Costello, including the resident FBI agent who is cooperating on the case.

wahlberg-baldwin
One of his best scenes, and the one that inspired this fan theory,

At the end of the conversation—after insulting the FBI agent, the entirety of the room, Ellerby and Ellerby’s wife—Dignam departs on the line that “…feds are like mushrooms. Feed ’em shit and keep ’em in the dark.””

Baldwin’s subsequent line in this scene is the following, referring to Dignam after Dignam leaves the room:

“Normally, he’s a very, uh, nice guy. Don’t judge him from this meeting alone.”

Of course, the entirety of this theory rests on Ellerby’s statement in this scene being taken at face value. This might seem challenging, at first, considering that all of Dignam’s behavior throughout the film suggests he is anything but a nice guy. Continue reading “The Departed Fan Theory: Mark Wahlberg’s Dignam Used to Be Nice”

Is John McClane in a Bad Mood Because He Loves Christmas?

A minor Die Hard fan theory

This post is part of Fan Theory Fridays, in which we share and explore a new fan theory about a film, television series, book, or other fictional narrative. For more on what a fan theory is—and what it isn’t—please read D. F. Lovett’s previous explorations of the subject.

Much talk is made every year about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas film. This article does not seek to resolve, or even directly address, that debate.

Instead, I’d like to highlight one aspect of that film that occurred to me on a recent viewing. While it’s never stated in either Die Hard or any of its sequels, I think that a close viewing of Die Hard suggests that John McClane is a huge Christmas guy. Like, a major Christmas guy. And that this detail of his personality explains a lot of his behavior throughout the film.

“Got any Christmas music?”

During the first scenes—and opening credits—of Die Hard, a few details are revealed in short succession about John McClane:

  • He doesn’t like flying
  • He’s married
  • He’s a New York City cop (and has been for eleven years)
  • He smokes cigarettes
  • He brought an oversized teddy bear on the flight, presumably as a gift for someone
  • His wife lives in California and he lives in New York and he doesn’t like talking about it

But there is one more detail about him. A subtle one, that isn’t stated as blatantly as the other exposition above… John McClane likes Christmas music.

Before the Die Hard title card flashes onscreen, the limo driver Argyle puts a cassette in and Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” begins to play.

got-any-christmas-music

John McClane: Don’t you got any Christmas music?

Argyle: This is Christmas music.

Now, let’s reconsider everything we’ve seen until this moment. John McClane is anxious, confused, overwhelmed, and doesn’t seem to like California very much. He’s also carrying a giant teddy bear with a big red bow on it. Is he anxious because he’s about to see his estranged wife?

Or, is he anxious that his Christmas is getting ruined? Continue reading “Is John McClane in a Bad Mood Because He Loves Christmas?”

Did Tony Stark Disparage Bloggers to Dissuade Peter Parker’s Vlogging?

A Fan Theory of the MCU

This post is part of a new series called Fan Theory Fridays, in which we share and explore a new fan theory about a film, television series, book, or other fictional narrative. For more on what a fan theory is—and what it isn’t—please read D. F. Lovett’s previous explorations of the subject.

One of my favorite films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is 2017’s Spiderman: Homecoming, starring Tom Holland as Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark (Iron Man). While I haven’t yet seen the new Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse animated film, its release did inspire me to re-watch Spider-Man: Homecoming… which, in turn, inspired a new, minor fan theory.

peter-parker-spiderman
A theory about this guy and his sorta father figure

A Radically Condensed Summary of Spider-Man: Homecoming

Part of the film’s appeal is its relatively simple narrative. Unlike most Marvel films, it contains only two superheroes and a straightforward coming-of-age plot. There’s no convoluted storyline, no over-elaborate villain backstory, no shoehorning-in of extraneous characters. It doesn’t even bog itself down with an origin story or a montage dedicated to learning superpowers.

The plot is, more or less, this: Peter Parker tries to a) be his friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and stop a bad guy from doing some bad things b) impress a girl at school and c) impress Tony Stark enough to join the Avengers.

He succeeds in all three, to varying extents, enough so that the film ends with Tony Stark inviting Parker to the Avengers headquarters in upstate New York and giving him a “welcome to the team” speech. Said speech ends with one of the better lines Stark has had:

There’s about fifty reporters behind that door. Real ones, not bloggers. When you’re ready, why don’t you try that on [gesturing to a new Spider-Man suit] and I’ll introduce the world to the newest official member of the Avengers. Spider-Man.

stark-parker
The scene in question. Which yes, while good, does remind one of Tony Stark’s terrible fashion sense. 

It’s a great line, both because it’s very fitting for Tony Stark and because of, well, the degree of truth to it.

The controversy you missed because only bloggers care

Since I first heard this line, I assumed one thing: “that probably hurt some feelings.” Continue reading “Did Tony Stark Disparage Bloggers to Dissuade Peter Parker’s Vlogging?”

Home Alone is a Dickensian, Supernatural Test of the McCallisters

A Fan Theory

This post is the first in a new series called Fan Theory Fridays, in which we will share and explore a new fan theory about a film, television series, book, or other fictional narrative. For more on what a fan theory is—and what it isn’t—please read D. F. Lovett’s previous explorations of the subject.

I thought I hated Home Alone.

So when a friend invited me to attend a matinee viewing of it at the new Parkway Theater in south Minneapolis, I wasn’t sure whether to accept. The idea of watching the film did not spark nostalgic giddiness or ironic snark, but more a sense of nameless dread that I would be trapped in a dark room for two hours with a swarm of squirming children and a few of my fellow childless buddies, wondering why we had thought this a good idea.

home-alone
Classic.

Of course, despite my dread, there were a few reasons I went. Namely: my friend had already bought the tickets and he assured me it would be “more hipsters than children”. That, and as he reminded me, “it’s a John Hughes movie with Joe Pesci, John Candy, and Katherine O’Hara in it.” Finally, I’m currently writing a novel partially set in the ‘90s and I thought it would be good to subject myself to a forced trip down memory lane.

Here’s the thing about Home Alone: I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a much better film than I remember it being and probably a better film than you remember it being. The plot structure should be taught in film school. The performances are sublime. The John Williams soundtrack is masterful.

There was, however, one thing that threw me off about the film: it was both much darker and more vaguely supernatural than I recalled it being.

I remembered the bed wetting subplot but had no memory of Kevin’s uncle calling him “a little jerk” or the objectively bad parenting that resulted in Kevin being left home alone in the first place. I remembered John Candy’s role as a polka king but had forgotten his haunting story about forgetting his own child in a funeral home for an entire day.

I remembered the scary old man and Buzz’s tall tale that he was a murderer or something. I did not remember that his name was Old Man Marley. I did not remember his story about being estranged from his son. I didn’t even remember him serving as a Deus Ex Machina, arriving to save Kevin from what would have been certain death at the hand of two bumbling crooks who, in the film’s final moments, escalate from cat burglars to attempted child murderers.

While Home Alone is indeed better than I remember it, that’s not what I’m writing about today.

I have come not to review Home Alone, but to theorize about it. And, specifically, the role played by Old Man Marley. Continue reading “Home Alone is a Dickensian, Supernatural Test of the McCallisters”

Why Your Westworld Fan Theory is Not a Fan Theory

Madness descended upon the internet earlier this week when the Westworld showrunners stormed into a the /r/westworld subreddit for what proved to be one of the larger online pranks in recent history.

The gist of the prank was simple: the Westworld team announced that they would be spoiling the entirety of the show for the Westworld superfans. Their logic was that the fans of Westworld seem to love guessing spoilers, so they might as well have them all revealed in advance.

In reality, they had crafted a beautiful new Rickroll. You can view it here:

This was a clever stunt, a well-executed, but most importantly: the Westworld team had created a genius act of public shaming that should bring into focus the absurdity of many aspects of internet fan culture.

The real message here is this: The very concept of fan theories needs major examination. Continue reading “Why Your Westworld Fan Theory is Not a Fan Theory”

Why That Game of Thrones Fan Theory Is Not a Game of Thrones Fan Theory

The internet loves a good fan theory. The trouble is, the phrase “fan theory” has started to go the way of words like content or hipster or artisan or any of the other words whose definitions are so vague, so all encompassing, that they have very little meaning at this point.

“Fan theory” is currently used as a descriptor for the following things:

  • A prediction for an upcoming storyline
  • Analysis of a character’s motivations
  • Analysis of a storyline
  • Fan fiction
  • The dissection of a trailer and conclusions drawn from moments in said trailer
  • Explanation of subtext, predicated on the explainer failing to recognize subtext.
  • Recognition of dramatic irony or a plot turn before the reveal

None of the above should be considered fan theories, in the opinion of this blogger.

So then, you may ask, what the heck qualifies as a fan theory?

promise-me-ned
And yes, I’m including “R + L = J” as something that is not, and never was, a fan theory. It’s a storyline, folks, not a theory you invented.

What is a fan theory?

I’ve been seeking to answer this question for a while, and previously dedicated an entire blog post to it: What We Talk About When We Talk About Fan Theories. And while I’m happy with that article and its reception, I find that the term “fan theory” is increasingly bandied about, with increasingly little meaning, especially during Game of Thrones season.  Continue reading “Why That Game of Thrones Fan Theory Is Not a Game of Thrones Fan Theory”

The Rick and Morty Fan Theory That Explains Total Rickall and Rick Breaking the Fourth Wall

An avid Rick and Morty fan has many questions, some of which were answered (or at least addressed) in the Season 3 premiere that aired on April’s Fools Day.

rick-mcdonalds-sauce
One of the more memorable scenes from the new episode, and also one of the more memorable McDonald’s moments in pop culture.

These questions include:

  • Is Rick C-137 truly the Rickest Rick? What makes him Ricker than all other Ricks?
  • Is Morty C-137 the Mortiest Morty, or the Rickest Morty?
  • What ever happened to Evil Morty?
  • Does Rick C-137 really know that he’s in a television show? What’s the deal with him breaking the fourth wall all the time?
  • What’s the deal with Mr. Poopybutthole?
  • Are Jerry and Beth really going to get a divorce?

Naturally, questions of this sort are what drive fans to create fan theories. While the following fan theory does not answer all these questions, it does answer the ones that I find most compelling.

First of all… Continue reading “The Rick and Morty Fan Theory That Explains Total Rickall and Rick Breaking the Fourth Wall”

What We Talk About When We Talk About Fan Theories

I’ve been trying to write this article for a while. Years. While I try to avoid listicles, I’ve found that, at times, they have their uses. These are my opinions and observations on what we talk about when we talk about fan theories, and what they are, and how we should talk about them.

No one has an agreed-upon definition for “fan theory.”

Fan theory is not listed on Urban Dictionary. It is not explained on Know Your Meme. Even the /r/FanTheories subreddit does not have any official stance on what makes a fan theory a fan theory.

This is largely because the phrase “fan theory” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Part of why I’m writing this is to reach some kind of definition and meaning, and to refute what I see as being inaccurate uses of the phrase.

A fan theory is a form of contemporary critical theory, in which the audience analyzes the text and creates a new interpretation that explains “what really happened,” creating a separate narrative aside from or within the narrative.

This is what I’ve come up with. I don’t know if it’s perfect, but I think it says a lot.

Now, more importantly, I’d like to explore both what makes a fan theory good and what makes a fan theory bad and what makes a fan theory not a fan theory. Part of this will include citing particularly good and bad fan theories.

westworld-theory.jpg
And yes, I’ll address so-called Westworld fan theories.

A weak fan theory is anything that suggests “it was all a dream” or “the main character was dead the whole time” or any variation of this.

Continue reading “What We Talk About When We Talk About Fan Theories”

Twelve Questions and Answers About The Moonborn (with No Spoilers)

I’ve received a number of questions about The Moonborn: or, Moby-Dick on the Moon, my novel that came out on Monday, November 14th. While I love getting questions about it, I decided to put together this list for people who might have questions and would like an easy answer.

Note that there are no spoilers, other than in a very general sense.

Is it really about Moby-Dick on the Moon?

Yes. With robots instead of whales. However, you may find that it’s slightly more metafictional than your standard dark and gritty reboot. Or you may not.

Do I need to read Moby-Dick first?

In my opinion, no. The narrator of The Moonborn hasn’t even read Moby-Dick. But I would like to think that you’ll find yourself wanting to read Moby-Dick after The Moonborn.

How do you think Herman Melville would feel about all this?

Flattered, I hope. By the effort, at the very least. Continue reading “Twelve Questions and Answers About The Moonborn (with No Spoilers)”