|See also:||meta, head canon, tinhatting|
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Fan theories are interpretations, predictions, analyses and speculations about a given canon's unexplained details or mysteries. Some theories concern and/or are motivated by shipping but plenty are focused on gen elements within the canon.
Tinhatting is a related but often distinct phenomenon, in which fans believe that their real-life OTP is forced to keep the true nature of their relationship a secret due to industry or social pressure.
Responses to Fan Theories from Creators and Critics
Fan theories are often shared on social media platforms, where they may be encountered by both fellow fans and The Powers That Be. Creator responses to fan theories vary, from the playfully encouraging to the outright antagonistic. As fan communities on platforms like Reddit and Twitter play host to increasingly visible conversations about future plot developments in ongoing film franchies and television series, creators and professional critics alike have questioned the role and impact of fan theorizing.
The first season of the television show Westworld had been the subject of much fan speculation - so much so that some professional TV critics speculated that all the fan theories had "ruined" the show. Writing for Vox, critic Todd VanDerWerff observed:
"A handful of TV critics have recently written about how fan theorizing — and its omnipresence online — has essentially made it impossible to talk about Westworld as anything but a collection of the top theories. Discussion has largely become uncoupled from theme and character and focused mostly on trying to guess what will happen next."
In the same article, VanDerWerff also quoted scholar Myles McNutt's analysis of the same phenomenon:
"Google Trends shows that the specific idea of “Westworld theories” was not something that predated the show’s premiere, garnering little-to-no search activity in the weeks leading up to its debut. This discourse’s presence in pre-written coverage represents an effort by websites to turn Westworld into another consistent traffic-generating series in the vein of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. Treating the show as a puzzle justifies not only weekly reviews and interviews when episodes air on Sunday, but also updates throughout the week aggregating fan theories from Reddit, responding to theories presented on other outlets, or generating new theories entirely."
Examples of Fan Theories
- Knight2King in the Harry Potter fandom, also known as Ronbledore or the "Ron Is Dumbledore" theory
- A great many theories regarding the exact identities of the Fallen Cities and their various inhabitants in the Fallen London fandom
- Chlois Theory in Smallville fandom
- The Johnlock Conspiracy in the Sherlock (TV series) fandom
- R + L = J in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones fandoms (confirmed in canon on the television series)
- Darth Jar Jar in the Star Wars fandom
- Draco Malfoy is a werewolf in the Harry Potter fandom
- Old Man Carl Theory in The Walking Dead fandom
- Stan Lee is Uatu the Watcher in the Marvel Cinematic Universe fandom
- Darcy Lewis is Tony Stark's Daughter in The Avengers (Marvel) fandom
- Wifegate in The X-Files fandom
- New Mexico seceded from the Union by Tumblr user justalilbobafettish in the High School Musical fandom
- High School Musical is just a high school musical by Reddit user rockaface in the High School Musical fandom
- Alice Cooper is a witch by Tumblr user betty-and-jughead in the Riverdale fandom
- The Pixar Theory
Fan Theories and Misdirection
- Thelostspecial.com, a troll Sherlock website aiming to mess with TJLC fans by posting fake clues fans attempted to connect to their fan theories
- r/FanTheories, a Reddit page with 467,170 subscribers.
- The Game Theorists, a Youtube channel with over 10 million subscribers (as of June 2018) covering and creating theories about video games
- The SuperCarlinBrothers YouTube channel that specializes in Harry Potter, MCU, Star Wars, Pixar, and Disney fan theories.
- Online theorizing ruined too many TV shows in 2016 by Todd VanDerWerff for Vox. Posted on December 2, 2016. Retrieved on June 3, 2018.
- Monetizing the Maze: How the Internet Covers Westworld by Myles McNutt for Flow Journal. Posted on November 22, 2016. Retrieved on June 3, 2018.
- The Game Theorists Youtube page