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”

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Let Them Eat Freedom Fries, and Ten Other Headlines to Anticipate in 2017

It’s early December, which means two things: time to start recapping 2016 and predicting 2017.

While not as exhaustive as The Economist’s The World in 2017 or as doomsday-esque as some other lists that I won’t link to, this is my list of the headlines and stories I expect in the coming year.

Netflix Starts Original News Programming

I don’t watch Netflix original programming much. I think it is the most lowbrow of available television services, churning out binge-friendly quantity over quality that peddles in nostalgia as Buzzfeed peddles in cuteness. There are exceptions, of course, but the majority of their content is just good enough to keep you watching and just bad enough to end every episode with a cliffhanger.

stranger-things
Obviously, there are exceptions. I loved this show.

That said, there is something I do like about Netflix: it’s a great equalizer. Republicans watch Fox News and Democrats watch MSNBC; young people watch Vice and old people watch 60 Minutes; everyone watches Netflix. You don’t need cable, money, or a confirmation bias. You just need a couple dollars a month and a desire for something to watch.

Which is why it’s time for them to start serving as a news source, and I think 2017 is the year we will see it. It’s not like it would be considered an untrustworthy news source: people are currently getting their news from spam websites shared by strangers on social media. If anything, Netflix becoming a news network could actually bring some reality back to the post-truth America.

Glenn Beck and Jon Stewart to Collaborate

This one was once unthinkable, but now I think it’s months away from happening. Both Stewart and Beck seem to be on introspective vision quests, two of the only American public figures seeking truths beyond the party line.  Continue reading “Let Them Eat Freedom Fries, and Ten Other Headlines to Anticipate in 2017”

Please, No More Origin Stories of How Evil Villains Used to be Good Guys or Children

If you haven’t heard, the latest complete failure at the box office was the flaccid reboot Pan, an attempt to create a franchise out of the Peter Pan story by starting with Mr. Pan’s origin as a young boy on an adventure to Neverland. In which the villain is Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard and Peter’s best friend is a guy named James Hook.

Okay, Hugh Jackman. You're too good to keep playing Wolverine but you'll do THIS?
Okay, Hugh Jackman. You’re too good to keep playing Wolverine but you’ll do THIS?

That’s right: in the new version of Peter Pan that you didn’t see, Pete’s best friend is a young, two-handed, two-eyed Captain Hook in his pre-pirate days. Meaning that the narrative is an origin story that includes a tragic bromance in which we watch one of the central characters become a villain.

This is the exact reboot/origin story/cheesy narrative that we do not need. And it’s a strange trend, with examples including the Star Wars prequels, Wicked, and a variety of superhero films and television shows in which the villain first appears as a classmate, friend, or family member of the hero.

It’s redundant and unoriginal and redundant.

As stated above, there is very little original left in the idea of “let’s imagine what happened in the part of the story before what we’ve seen,” whether its Pre-Pan or Not-yet-sleeping Beauty. It would perhaps be more interesting if it wasn’t so common, but there’s no longer anything unique about the idea that “what if Poison Ivy was a little girl before she became a bad guy” or “guys, maybe the wicked witch wasn’t always wicked?”

It’s sad and disturbing, but not in a compelling way.

There’s something very sad about a narrative in which we see a kid become a villain. There’s a reason that no one has made a summer blockbuster about Adolf Hitler as a kind little boy who becomes corrupted by evil. It would be disturbing and awful and sad. Although, based on the trends, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone creates an gritty origin story in which Jesus of Nazareth and Pontius Pilate are classmates who fight a battle against Herod before Pontius becomes a villain and Jesus becomes a hero.

The only good example of this trope is Rob Zombie’s Halloween reboot, because at no point is Michael Myers an innocent young boy awaiting corruption. He’s evil from the start, killing animals in his bedroom and classmates after school. This works because it’s an over-the-top absurd slasher film in which Zombie’s endgame is overwhelming the audience with a visceral, brutal experience.

Yes, I kinda liked Rob Zombie's Halloween.
Yes, I kinda liked Rob Zombie’s Halloween.

Other than that, this cheap trope of the eventual villain beginning as a child is too brutal for a children’s story and too obvious for adults. Even the Sam Raimi Spiderman trilogy was weakened by the hackneyed writing that turned James Franco from Peter Parker’s bff into Green Goblin Junior.

It paints the world in unrealistic terms.

Here is the narrative we’re given in this unneeded origin stories: “He was good, and then he became evil.” The one exception is probably that of Darth Vader, in which the narrative is “He was good, and then he became evil, but then he became good for a second right before he died and then he went to Star Wars Heaven.” Either way, it declares that the world is good guys and bad guys.

The worst part is that these narratives often pose as “darker interpretations” or act as if they’re asking poignant questions about morality and heroism, when really the only question they ask if “what’s an easy way to show a good person become a bad person?”

It eliminates suspense from the story.

“Oh, his name is James Hook? So what, he’s Captain Hook? Yep. Okay. Wait, I need to watch him become Captain Hook for the next two hours? Great. This is exciting and suspenseful.”

ivy
I wonder which Batman villain Ivy Pepper will grow up to be.

This is the trouble with prequels and origin stories. They’re often yawn-inducing, because we know exactly what’s going to happen. Even Better Call Saul, a show I kinda like that provides some good laughs, suffers from the flaw that it’s completely unnecessary and we know what the ending will be. I mean, the ending already exists. It’s called Breaking Bad.

With Pan, we have reached peek reboot. And it’s a good lesson for anyone who has plans for an upcoming reboot or origin story or prequel, whether it’s the Adventures of Young Jesus and Pontius described above or the inevitable Back to the Future reboot.

Let's hope that the Pepsi Perfect is just a fun thing that's happening, and not the first step of the Michael Bay reboot of BTTF.
Let’s hope that the appearance of Pepsi Perfect in real life (first seen in Back to the Future 2) is just a fun thing that’s happening, and not the first step of the Michael Bay reboot of BTTF.

There is only one way to make a reboot work now: you need to make anything possible. Don’t write the story into a corner in order to match the original plot points or the expectations that the audience has. Ensure suspense by making anything on the table. This is some work and some don’t. Batman Begins and its sequels gave us moments we’d never seen; Craig’s Casino Royale killed the villain and the love interest surprising, unexpected scenes; Man of Steel, on the other hand, failed because it opened with the exact same Superman origin story that we’d seen a million times, in which the baby Superman is put into a spaceship and sent from Krypton to Earth.

So, please, if you are currently hard at work on a gritty reboot in which we see a familiar villain begin life as an innocent, a hero, or a child: ask yourself if you are providing us with anything new and anything that anyone wants to see.

Can Spectre Disprove the “James Bond is a Brainwashed Codename” Theory?

If there is one fan theory I love above all others, it’s that James Bond is a codename. I’ve written about this extensively, including my own unique take on it, which is that James Bond is a codename given to every agent who has been brainwashed into believing that:

  • his name is James Bond,
  • it has always been James Bond,
  • there are no other James Bonds before him
  • he grew up at a place called Skyfall.

My interpretation, as described thoroughly in my post “Yes, Indeed, James Bond is a Codename,” (which was then thoroughly discussed and dissected in a reddit post on the subject) takes most of its evidence from the film Skyfall, including the relationship between Judi Dench’s M and Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva. I believe it’s implied that Silva is an agent previously brainwashed into thinking himself Bond.

This guy.
This guy.

But what does all of this mean when considering the new James Bond film, Spectre?

What do we already know about Spectre?

Many people already consider Skyfall to have disproved the codename theory, arguing that the graves of the dead Bond parents and the visit to Bond’s family estate prove he can’t possibly be a guy whose nickname/codename is Bond. Plus, as people always point out, we already know James Bond’s codename: 007.

Either the gravestones of Bond's parents... or another detail in the grand brainwashing codename conspiracy. I prefer the latter interpretation.
Either the gravestones of Bond’s parents… or another detail in the grand brainwashed James Bond codename conspiracy. I prefer the latter interpretation.

This dig into Bond’s backstory appears to go deeper in Spectre, with the catalyst for the film’s action apparently involving a box of possessions from Skyfall. And the villain is none other than Christoph Waltz, who is either:

  • classic Bond villain Blofeld
  • a new character named Franz Oberhauser
  • or both.

(It’s worth noting that Waltz emphatically denies that he is Blofeld.)

Regardless of how evil Waltz is in Spectre, it's hard to believe he can be more evil or charismatic than he was as Hans Landa.
Regardless of how evil Waltz is in Spectre, it’s hard to believe he can be more evil or charismatic than he was as Hans Landa.

But, most importantly about Waltz’s character, he is certainly someone who already knows James, as we see in the teaser trailer:

And who is the other guy? To whom Bond’s face is familiar? To whom James may be bringing death? (Edit: it’s been pointed out that this man is Mr White, from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.)

And then there is this trailer, in which we learn that James is “who links them all”

But what does this mean for the James Bond codename theory?

The real question is whether we can continue to believe that Bond is a brainwashed spy who wasn’t born as James Bond, but that he doesn’t know that.

I would say, yes. I would say, I hope so.

Consider what we hear Oberhauser telling him in the second trailer: “It was me, James. The author of all your pain.”

Did Franz Oberhauser author Bond’s pain? Or did he create Bond himself? Is he part of this brainwashing, codename-assigning conspiracy in which some of us so fervently believe?

Will it confirm the James Bond codename theory?

No. Certainly not. But it cannot disprove it either. We will continue to believe, and there will undoubtedly be a reading of the film that allows for the James Bond Codename Theory to continue to exist.

We will know soon. Spectre comes out on November 6th. As Oberhauser says in the trailer: “It’s been a long time. Now, finally, here we are.”

Too Street? What You Should Know About Horowitz, Elba, and Bond

Unlike many of the people who are angry with Anthony Horowitz over his comments on Idris Elba’s inability to play James Bond, I read the entire article. Why do I assume that the outraged did not read the entire article? Because, well, if they had, they would be even more outraged. It’s that bizarre.

There are also other things that people might not understand about this entire scenario, especially because of the way this has been reported. When people talk about “James Bond author,” it can be confusing, especially for people who don’t know much about the Bond franchise. As a Bond fan, I’ve attempted to clarify some of these elements for those who might not clear on them.

Horowitz has only written one book about James Bond, called Trigger Mortis, and it comes out in September 2015.

This is something that many people may not understand: James Bond began as a literary character, and still exists as a literary character.

The latest Bond novel. About him, not written by him.
The latest Bond novel. About him, not written by him.

I have never read a new James Bond novel, but I know people who have. They’re fun summer reads to take on vacation. They could be labeled as “authorized fan fiction.” Since Fleming passed away, his estate has commissioned one of these novels ever couple years. Jeffrey Deaver, the guy who wrote The Bone Collector and a bunch of other thrillers, wrote one of them in 2011.

Horowitz doesn’t like the new James Bond films

“Skyfall is my least favourite. I know it is heresy to say so, but it is the one Bond film I have never liked.”

He also thinks that Spectre, the one out this year, looks dumb based on its trailer (below).

If it’s not clear, this guy has little-to-nothing to do with the Bond films. So if anyone thinks that a boycott of Craig’s fourth 007 film might solve something, think harder.

Horowitz is very butthurt about not getting to write a James Bond book sooner.

He almost said no to writing this. But he said yes, because how couldn’t he?

He brought back the character Pussy Galore for this book.

Sigh. This is how I know people haven’t read this entire article. Because the character Pussy Galore is in it, and she’s still named that.

And the only time that it’s acknowledged that she has a silly name is when it embarrasses Bond.

Horowitz also says something very strange about Pussy Galore

“In the original book, the fact that Pussy was raped as a girl becomes something attractive. If I had put that in I would have been killed.”

Sooooo that’s the only reason you didn’t include that, Anthony? What?

James Bond naked wrestles a man in the book

Without having read the book, and only the interview, I’m still not clear on the context of this.

Horowitz has a play about to open called Dinner with Saddam

It’s true. He does. Not sure what to do with this information, but I found it interesting enough to be worth sharing.

Elba handled this whole thing in a classy way.

First, he posted this on his Instagram:

Yes, I screenshotted this from my phone.
Yes, I screenshotted this from my phone.

But, more importantly, he captioned it with:

Always Keep Smiling!! It takes no energy and never hurts!

Learned that from the Street!!

#septemberstillloveyou

Idris Elba is pretty cool.

Horowitz kinda apologized, but his apology makes it clear he isn’t really sure what he did wrong.

I think this article does a good job explaining how Horowitz’s apology doesn’t quite get it. It mostly comes across as a guy who is upset that he upset other people, but still doesn’t know what they’re so mad about and just wishes they would stop being so mad at him.

And finally, the audiobook James Bond of Trigger Mortis is going to be performed by David Oyelowo

mlk

Know who that is? He portrayed MLK in Selma. So, kinda, technically, David Oyelowo is the first black Bond.

What did I just read?

This article was way more blog-spammy and listicular and a “hot take” than what I normally publish on here. But I felt a lot of this had to be said, especially because the articles I was seeing about it just weren’t cutting it.

You can read his entire interview with The Daily Mail here.

Also, unfortunately, it sounds as if Horowitz’s novel doesn’t confirm the James Bond Codename Theory. Bummer.

Five Films That Would Benefit From Force Ghosts

There is at least one major question about the new Star Wars film that goes unanswered: will there be Force Ghosts?

Will you be back?
Will you be back?

At least, this is what I’m wondering. Obi Wan’s Force Ghost really kicked up the original trilogy a notch, and I doubt I’m the only one who thinks Liam Neeson should have made a few posthumous appearances in Episodes II and III.

But the question is, why don’t all movies have Force Ghosts in them? And I don’t mean all Star Wars movie. I mean all movies. (I’m also unclear on whether or not Force Ghost should be capitalized, so I’ve chosen to capitalize it throughout the article).

Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed in Creed.

The new Rocky spin-off (or whatever you want to call it) looks amazing. But Rocky training Wallace Creed is not enough.

Where's Apollo?
Where’s Apollo?

I understand that the creators felt it would be too much to bring back Creed senior, considering he died in Rocky’s arms in the fourth film of the franchise.

We need the original Creed, Mr. Weathers, and if we are going to stick to the canon then the only option is through a Force Ghost.  Imagine if, as Wallace gets up there for his big fight, he looks and see the original Apollo Creed standing next to Stallone. Cheering for him. It has to happen.

Han Seoul-Oh in every Fast and Furious future sequel.

This dude is the best thing about the fifth and sixth fast, furious films… although he died at the end of the third one. Which makes no sense, but it is what it is. (They’ve explained it by saying that the third one takes place AFTER the sixth, which makes no sense but let’s just accept that and try to work around it.)

This cool guy.
This cool guy.

Unless they decide to retcon him back to life, which I would be okay with because I think it’s something that this franchise should be okay with, the only other way to bring him back is that he’s a Force Ghost driving a Ghost Car. Or he appears in Vin Diesel’s passenger seat and gives advice and reminds people not to drive too fast or they might die in a fatal car accident like he did.

Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic World

How much better would it have made Jurassic World if, when the kids find the jeeps in the old abandoned Jurassic Park complex, there was a ghost of Jeff Goldblum hanging out there.

goldblum

He could discuss chaos theory and give them advice based on his previous dinosaur adventures. Maybe he can be in Jurassic World 2: Jurassic Universe?

All the previous James Bonds, lined up in a row, looking at Daniel Craig, at the end of his last James Bond movie

Something like this. (Photo from this site.)
Something like this. (Photo from this site.)

It would make for a pretty powerful moment, and would also be a nice way to confirm the old “James Bond is a codename” theory.

Bobby Fischer in Searching for Bobby Fischer

One controversial element of the film Searching for Bobby Fischer is that Fischer never saw the film, didn’t like his name being used, and received no monetary compensation for it being made.

Fischer in Leipzig in 1960. Perhaps he could be added back in with a hologram, similar to Tupac at Coachella?
Fischer in Leipzig in 1960. Perhaps he could be added back in with a hologram, similar to Tupac at Coachella?

But what if they had offered him the role of himself, as a Force Ghost, at the end of the movie, cheering on the protagonist? That would’ve both made Fischer feel better AND made it a better movie.

Every movie ever?

The real question might be: what movies shouldn’t have a Force Ghost in them?

Six Months of Search Terms: Wolverine, His Beard, and The Strange Searches That Lead People Here

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post called The Maramduke Fart Paradox, in which I discussed the strange search engine terms that lead people to this website. Among them was “keanu reeves girlfriend 2011,” “mob bosses with sunglasses,” and a wide variety of questions about the ’90s film Blank Check.

Well, the search terms have never stopped being strange. Here are some of the more interesting ones that have lead people to this site.  Presumably some of them left satisfied, some left immediately, and others left far more confused than they were before they visited.

I’ve also decided to do this in the form of a top ten list, because everyone likes top ten lists. But with 14 because I couldn’t narrow it down to 10.

14. skyfall proof that james bond isnt a codename

Whoever ended up here was certainly disappointed, as I consider Skyfall to be proof that James is definitely a codename. Other 007-specific search terms include james bond is a codename, james bond fight, james bond theory, and is james bonds codename 007? (The answer to the last one is undebatebly yes.)

13. matthew mcconaughey as jake in the sun also rises

Wow.  That’s a really cool idea. Not sure if it would work, but yeah, cool idea.

The lone star also rises.
The lone star also rises.

Continue reading “Six Months of Search Terms: Wolverine, His Beard, and The Strange Searches That Lead People Here”

What is happening in the SPECTRE teaser trailer?

I don’t know.

But here it is:

It appears that Bond has secrets, or at least a secret, and the secret involves a family member, or at least someone from his childhood.  And that this secret entity is probably tied to some kind of shadowy organization.  And that this shadowy organization might be called Spectre. Continue reading “What is happening in the SPECTRE teaser trailer?”

Why Vin Diesel Should Be the Next James Bond

We are close to the end of what is, quite possibly, the greatest franchise ever: The Fast and the Furious films.  While I initially disliked these movies, (referring to the fifth installment, prior to actually seeing it, as “more-or-less the same shitty movie they made the last four times”), I had a change in opinion after seeing Fast Five.  Sure, I’m still uncomfortable being lumped into the same category as the kinds of people who choose to see films that are fast/furious, because I drive a station wagon and because I get the impression that many of the films’ fans (although, notably, not their creators) place a higher value on people driving fast cars quickly than they do on character development, realistic dialogue, or really any aspect of films other than cool shiny fancy cars.

But all of my arguments against the Fast/Furious Films are ultimately irrelevant because of one thing: they are very, very entertaining.

Furthermore, there is nothing pretentious or forced about these films.  In fact, they’ve been (rightfully) praised for their progressive approach to race and gender (you can find good articles on the genius and progressive attitude of these films here, here, and here, among many other places) .  The Fast/Furious films feature a variety of talented actors, brilliant cinematography, and clever, straight-forward, emotionally-driven plots on par with the original Die Hard.  Additionally, while most franchises lose steam after the second or third sequel, the Fast/Furious films have both maintained all the positives of their first installment (family drama, moral conflicts, cool cars) while continually diversifying and innovating (shifting emphasis from racing to heisting, adding talented actors such as Dwayne Johnson, Tony Jaa, and Jason Statham).  And yes, I have previously written about this shift in my perspective, in the post Why Bale should be in the “Fast Five” Sequel.

Unfortunately, it seems like that Fastest Seven is the end of the franchise.  Paul Walker’s death, along with the inevitable ending of all franchises, means that the Fast and the Furious cannot exist forever.

Similarly, Daniel Craig cannot be James Bond forever.

I'm not saying this guy isn't a great Bond.  He's a great Bond.  But change is inevitable.
I’m not saying this guy isn’t a great Bond. He’s a great Bond. But change is inevitable.

While, yes, Craig will portray Bond in 2015’s Spectre, it’s unlikely that he has too many good Bond films left in him.  Audiences grow bored, actors grow stale, and the dark-and-gritty-reboot seems to be on its way out.

The next step is simple: Vin Diesel as the first American James Bond.

See, he has worn a suit before.
Here he is, in a suit.  Is it that far of a stretch?

Continue reading “Why Vin Diesel Should Be the Next James Bond”

The Most Interesting Responses to the Brainwashed James Bond Codename Theory

After posting the James Bond is a Codename, and Skyfall Proved It theory on the Fan Theories subreddit, /r/fantheories, a discussion with over 100 comments broke out over it.  These are some of the more interesting responses I saw in this discussion.  All original comments are credited to the redditors who provided them.  The comments themselves are in italics, with my opinions appearing before and after.

1.  /u/KodiakAnorak commented with this terrifying/awesome fan fiction set-up and extension of the original idea: 

Imagine a “Project Bond”, if you will, that ties into your theory. The grown men aren’t brainwashed at all. The children are genuine orphans taken by the British Government, trained and raised from a young age (before they can remember) as “James Bond”, the ultimate assassination machine. The only truly original Bond was the one from the book series. The rest are copies, raised in the image of a brutal killer. To protect their people, the UK created monsters… Continue reading “The Most Interesting Responses to the Brainwashed James Bond Codename Theory”