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”

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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.

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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”

Recommended Reading, Installment #1: Gatsby and Fight Club, Karl Welzein and more…

If you find yourself reading this blog with any regularity, you probably realize that the updates are few and far between.  A large part of this is that this blog’s author likes to put enough effort into each post to warrant the post’s existence.  The other reason is that, well, hypothetical Christian Bale films can be a tiring subject if overdone.

Which is why we present to you a new experiment that could become a regular installment or could disappear after this post: Recommended Reading, for fans of What Should Bale Do.  A series of other blog posts, forums, and essays around the internet that relate to some of the same themes as previous posts on What Should Bale Do:

1. Tyler Durden and Jay Gatsby

Perhaps it’s obvious, but until recently I had never heard anyone point out the obvious similarities between the structure and premise of Fight Club and The Great Gatsby.  But you can see in this essay (published in The F. Scott Fitzgerald Reader, Vol. 6 2007-2008) that not only are there connections, but someone has taken the time to write about those connections for 27 scholarly pages.  It’s worth a perusal, if you have the time.

Continue reading “Recommended Reading, Installment #1: Gatsby and Fight Club, Karl Welzein and more…”