|See also:||wank, RPF, OTP|
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Derived from the stereotype of conspiracy theorists and other paranoid people wearing tinfoil hats to protect themselves from telepathic, microwave or radio transmissions by aliens, the government, or both: a fannish tinhat is a person who believes that their favorite celebrities are really a couple, forced by The Powers That Be to keep their relationship a secret. A lot of tinhat theories are based on fantasies of closeted celebrities (mainly actors) unable to be open about their relationship in their profession, although tinhatting of opposite-sex pairings does occur (and predates the term itself). The term can refer to the stylish accessory or, by metonymy, to the fan who wears it.
The term can also be used to refer to any fans who deliberately ignore parts of a canon they dislike in order to continue enjoying the media, for example bad writing, questionable relationship choices, etc.
Versaphile invented the term in 2003 in answer to a request by Cesare for "a snappy sobriquet for the hardcore tru believas" who claimed that the The Lord of the Rings movie actors Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan were secretly in love.
LOTR RPF Tinhat Fan Theories
A particular group of LOTR RPS fans were communicating on the DataLounge (a GBLT forum), specifically a section called the "Prancing Pony". On that forum in early 2003, anonymous posters who claimed to be movie industry insiders promised inside information on "the boys" and message passing by subtle gestures and James-Bond-style secrets. The group around MsAllegro was especially vehement in their belief in the couple. Then the words 'charchuse' (sic) and 'burnt sienna' were mentioned in the forum, amongst other colours. When pictures of Dom and Elijah in yellow and light orangish brown shirts (respectively) turned up, euphoria abounded. The threads exploded, and people who had hitherto wavered on the fringes started to get sucked in. That is, many additional fans started to believe that these actors really were "shouting out" to their supporters by their color choices, ring wearing or non-wearing, and song choices. Expectations were high that these two men would eventually come out as a gay couple.
Fans who disagreed with the Prancing Pony shippers created a web site dispelling the rumors: Sanity, Please.
The actors explicitly denied being a couple several times, making fun of the various rumors. Dom said at a convention Q&A in 2003, that the actors had "read rumors of a contract they signed with New Line that they wouldn't come out as gay until after Return of the King." Dom laughed, and added, in a sarcastic tone that they were "thinking of walking down the red carpet holding hands for Return of the King."  Nothing like that, or any other kind of public announcement ever happened, and the actors have continued to deny any romantic involvement with each other. As of April 2010, these actors have mentioned long-term girlfriends.
General Use in Fandom
After Domlijah, the term tinhats was adopted by fans in many fandoms to describe similar conspiracy theorists and believers. The term is more likely to be used by nonbelievers than the fans in question, though it depends. Fans sometimes use the tinhat terminology ironically or self-deprecatingly; when they are squeeing especially loudly over some piece of celebrity gossip, they may type *dons tinhat* or *polishes tinhat*. They seldom mean that they really believe that their preferred OTP is a couple in real life.
Most RPF shippers of unconfirmed (or denied) celebrity pairings do not believe that the ship is real; many RPF stories contain an explicit disclaimer in the header emphasizing that the story is fiction and denying any implication that the writer thinks the people in question are actually a couple.
Other Subjects of Tinhatting
- singers Adam Lambert and Kris Allen of American Idol (Kradam)
- actors Chris Colfer and Darren Criss of Glee (CrissColfer)
- actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles of Supernatural (J2)
- singers Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson of One Direction (Larry Stylinson)
- Youtubers and radio hosts Dan Howell and Phil Lester (Phan)
- Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman - including loquacious disbelief in the Cumberbatch Baby
Het ships who received the same treatment:
- actors Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson of the Harry Potter movie series
- actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson of The X-Files, see X-Files RPF 
- Further thoughts on tinhatting and fannish history by fitchersvogel (2013)
- In October 2005, a group of MIT students ran a series of tests that seemed to prove tinfoil hats actually amplify radio waves and thus would be no good against mind control transmissions. Other scientists dispute this finding.
- versaphile's comment in Cesare's post What's in a name? in the DL_Anon community on journalfen, 2003-04-01. (accessed 2008-10-02)
- Wikipedia entry, the name refers to a Hobbit tavern in The Lord of the Rings. (accessed 2008-09-30)
- Sanity, Please page, on archive.org (accessed 2008/10/03).
- Fan report, October 5, 2003 (archived at TheOneRing.net, accessed 2008/10/3)
- Sept. 12, 2005 Newsweek interview with Dominic Monaghan (accessed 2008-10-24)
- I was a hardcore tinhat for a few horrifically embarrassing months in 2009 and proudly identified as such (we all had tinhats on our icons D:). Anon comment in Fail fandomanon, 19 July 2014. (Accessed 27 July 2014)
- Up where I'm at the baby had already been tumblr post by videoqueen65 (posted 2015-6-16) archive link
- Fail fandomanon comment thread starting at 2014-07-19 03:03 am (UTC)