The Strange Brilliance of Fan Theories

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

Fans spend a lot of time thinking about films, sometimes more than the filmmaker and can make connections that few people see and possibly don’t even exist.

Spoiler Warning – some spoilers for Star Wars, Quentin Tarantino films and James Bond

Tarantino’s Universe

Perhaps my favourite fan theory comes from the films of Quentin Tarantino. This theory comes from Pulp Fiction, Mia Wallace talks about a tv show she was in which sounds very similar to the group of assassins The Bride is part of in Kill Bill. This has led to a theory that all of Tarantino’s films take place in one universe but that some of Tarantino’s films are films within this universe. So Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2 are films that were made in this universe. I’ve also heard it suggested that it is Inglourious Basterds that splits our universe from the Tarantinoverse with the change in history that Hitler was assassinated. The brutal manner of his death and the Basterds methods caused a cultural shift in seeing violence as more acceptable – hence why the Tarantinoverse and the films made in it – are exceptionally violent.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Rick Dalton filming a Red Apple Cigarette ad in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood // Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

There is some evidence of a shared universe in these films. First of all – brands, several brands make multiple appearances in Tarantino films. Red Apple Cigarettes are in Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill Vol 1, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and are referenced in The Hateful Eight. Big Kahuna Burgers also appears in several of his films. There are a number of characters across different films that share surnames – for example Vincent and Vic Vega, Pete and Archie Hicox, that has lead people to suppose these are related.

Now Quentin Tarantino is absolutely the sort of director who would make an overly complicated hidden connection within his films and he has pretty much confirmed this theory. I’d actually say there is a terrible mistake – the fun is in the theory, if it’s no longer a theory it’s no longer fun.

Star Wars – Revenge of The Plot Hole

There are many fan theories around Star Wars and in many ways, these are accidental injuries Star Wars gave itself as a high proportion of them are only concerned with solving the plot holes and inconsistencies caused by the prequels and sequels. These theories try to explain why characters who met in the prequels don’t know each other in the original trilogy. Or reconcile differences in Jedi principles put forth in the different trilogies. Why didn’t any of the Jedi realise Palpatine was a sith? Why can’t Jedi fall in love with people when Force-sensitivity seems to be an inherited trait? Then there are the theories about family – I’ve seen Obi-Wan suggested as the possible father of a dozen different characters. In fairness to the creators of this theory, Star Wars has done a lot to reinforce the idea that if you’re not in the Skywalker family your ability to change the galaxy is rather limited.

Star Wars: A New Hope
The elite stormtroopers in A New Hope // Credit: 20th Century Fox

The ones I enjoy more are based on why are storm troopers so useless. The soldiers of a mighty empire who can’t shoot straight, whose armour is useless, who are as dumb as rocks. There’s a theory that the millions of soldiers that would be needed for an empire that size means the training basically consists of you getting handed a blaster. My personal theory on stormtroopers is that they’re not an army of conquest, or even defence, but of occupation. They’re not fighting other armies, they’re fighting rebels, they’re there to keep control (hence the lack of camouflage, they’re meant to be extremely visible). The talent and training goes to the navy as you really need to know what you’re doing travelling in hyperspace (because it ain’t like dusting crops) and if you can bombard a planet from space the army can be a bit irrelevant.

What’s The Deal With James Bond?

A theory I especially do not like runs that James Bond is not actually the name of the spy but rather a code name or title bestowed on different MI6 agents. This would explain why Bond’s appearance changes, differences in backstory, the fact that the first film is in the 60s and the last in 2010s. To me, this is simply trying to apply reason to the chaotic nature of a long-running series of films and I don’t care for it. I actually really enjoy the oddness of this aspect of Bond, in Goldeneye he is called a Cold War dinosaur, the world has changed and Bond has not. In a number of Daniel Craig’s Bond films, it is flat out stated he is too old and behind the times. I always loved that when Casino Royale was released it was the newest Bond film, set presumably at the time of release, but was actually a kind of prequel and as such happened before Dr No. A more recent theory that much more appeals to my sensibilities is that James Bond is a timelord who every so often does die and is regenerated.

Why Do We Make Theories?

Dr Jones working on his Han Solo fan theory // Credit: Paramount Pictures

So why do we have fan theories? Well, sometimes it’s because of the complexity of the work (see The Shining and the many, many fan theories) and there is indeed a great deal to analyse and understand, and there are multiple interpretations. While writing this article I found a few “fan theories” that in my opinion aren’t fan theories – the most glaring being that some fans think in Blade Runner Deckard is a replicant. That’s hardly a fan theory. DVDs, youtube clips, streaming films, IMDb make it easy to go over the films again and again, making connections and picking up on small details. When you have auteurs it’s very easy to start making connections that they’re all in the same universe or this character because they will often share artistic sensibilities. I think part of the reason people like fan theories is similar to the appeal of conspiracy theories – there is something pleasing about when things fit together nicely, there is a decades-old plan where it’s all been thought out. Of course, a director of the standing of JJ Abrams recently stated that he wished he had thought up a plan for the last Star Wars trilogy, so maybe, like reality, things are more chaotic than we like to admit.

Also Read: What Makes A Tarantino Film?

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Posted by
Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.