There’s a new trend happening in the part of the web that reports on popular films. Those crazy fan theories that once resided in the darkest shadows of the Internet are being put in the spotlight, and the once most aggravating geeks are now churning out click-bait.
Some of these theories are interesting examinations of the foreshadowing techniques, visual language, and symbolism of franchise films. Others find meaning in the supporting materials. Star Wars fan theorists riffle through novelizations for descriptions that differ from what they saw on screen. They scan the notation of a films’ score for meaningful melodies. They interpret concept art for scenes that were never filmed. They deduce plot points from toy line advertisements.
Some of the fan theories that have gone viral include:
- The theory that Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a Jedi double agent assigned to get close to the dark lord Snope to take him down.
- The theory that Darth Vader survived the events of Return of the Jedi and is actually Snope in disguise.
- And of course my favorite Star Wars fan theory: that Jar Jar Binks isn’t the bumbling klutz he presents himself to be, but rather a dark lord of the Sith with Machiavellian ambitions, running the force order from behind the scenes.
With the rise of shared universe comic book movies and the return of Stars Wars franchise fandom is at an all time high. Everyone wants to get in on the hype, but some folks make it personal. Netizens are writing artist’s statements for other artists’ work. Many of these theories say less about the films than they do about the people interpreting them. These enthusiast thesis’s teeter on the border between fan fiction and conspiracies.
In the documentary Room 237 one fan theorizes that director Stanley Kubrick was hired to fake the moon landing after dazzling audiences with 2001: A Space Odyssey. His theory was that Kubrick was hired by the US government to fake America’s victory in the space race, and that The Shining is filled with clues as a kind of confession for what Kubrick had done.
As far as crazy fan theories go I don’t think there’s any topping that one.
Make Your Fandom Your Own
My favorite fan theories are the ones that take the most minute detail of a film and spin it into a complex epic of its own. These theories use film franchises as springboards for new ideas. They carve out their own galaxies of known universes, and treat pop culture
as writing prompts for original works.
It’s a shame when the latest entry in a film series plays it safe and these crazy fan theories fail to come to fruition.
These fan theories showcase both their authors’ creative intelligence and desire to tell stories of their own. It would be a shame if the authors’ knack for storytelling ended at over analyzing franchise films. If only they could repurpose their creative energy into something that was theirs without discarding all of its foundations.
Our favorite stories linger in our imaginations. Their universes beg for further exploration. Their mysteries call for closer examination, and their characters want to get into so many more situations.
Many of us spend decades imaging our own stories set in that galaxy far far away. What if we could take ownership of those adventures? What if we could shed the brand trappings and repackage them? What if my idea to fix the Star Wars prequels with a crazy love triangle worked better somewhere else? Instead of centering around the Jedi of the old republic it took place in an urban fantasy world just beneath or own, the not too distant future, or an ancient civilization.
If this sounds far fetched think about this: George Lucas wanted to make a Flash Gordon remake, but couldn’t secure the rights. Star Wars was his attempt to make Flash Gordon his own. Star Wars is by no means a carbon copy of Flash Gordon, if anything Star Wars borrowed elements of the Sci Fi serial’s aesthetic and discarded the rest. Sure Flash Gordon had space soldiers, caped villains, and lasers, but it didn’t have a living Force binding its universe.
Let’s say you come up with an incredible fan theory, a shocking twist for how the next entry in the Star Wars saga could pan out, and it doesn’t go that way. Why let it go to waste? That twist could be your twist. That epic revelation could be your epic revelation. All you have to do is pry the plot out of the Star Wars universe. Keep the character archetypes, the situation, and the spirit, and bring them to a universe of your own.
What Star Trek Tells Us about the Future of Fandom
In the years between Enterprise’s cancelation and J.J. Abram’s 2008 Star Trek film, Trekkies got impatient waiting for the franchise to return. They took to YouTube sharing new adventures of their own. Star Trek: Phase 2 set out to complete the original Enterprise’s five year mission, while Star Trek: Phoenix explored the events long after the established canon. These fan films didn’t take place in cardboard sets in garages dressed up like bridges of federation class star ships. They featured official star fleet uniforms, well rendered special effects, and sets.
The Star Trek fan film industry received a punch in the nose when Paramount and CBS filed a lawsuit against the makers of Axanar for copyright infringement. Axanar is a History Channel-style documentary in the Trek universe, featuring veteran science fiction actors.
In the past Paramount has given fan productions their blessing, but now that the producers of Axanar have generated $638,471 through Kickstarter the copyright holders are seeking $150,000 per infringed work, including both their feature film and the prequel Prelude to Axanar.
This is an era where everything old is new again: Star Trek is back, Star Wars is back, so is The X-Files, Twin Peaks, and the Harry Potter universe. These days it seems like the fictional creations we love won’t enter the public domain until this generation has long left this mortal plane. The Axanar lawsuit may be the first of many to come.
This is why it’s so important to have a back up plan, a way to “find and replace” all those copyrighted elements and make them your own.
In his book Cognitive Surplus Clay Shirky says, “Lawyers would laugh until coffee came out of their noses at the idea that writers can legally borrow other writers’ characters… or that writers can own new characters or plots in existing fictional universes.”
Shirky recognizes that most fan fiction creators know this, with many of them shrugging off any rights to their work.
“It doesn’t matter whether the fan fiction authors understand that what they are doing is illegal. By publicly disavowing ownership… they are also carving out a practical distinction between the world of money and the world of love.”
Fan fiction authors love their established universes. We carve out special places for them in our imaginations be they Hogwarts, the Shire, or the Death Star. I’ve written my share of fan fiction and I haven’t tried to profit from any of these creations, but I’m not going to lie; much of my current work in progress started in other universes before I decided to bring it into my own.
This is my first collection of musical spoken word recordings. Each recording puts a satirical slant on self improvement, self medicating heartbreak with humor, and dropping the mic on depression. The recordings are scored with synth melodies, backing beats, and radio drama sound FX.
One thought on “How Writers can Use Their Crazy Fan Theories”
I enjoy hearing about those crazy fan theories (and I personally quite like the Jar Jar Binks theory… though I hadn’t heard the Kylo Ren double agent one. You should look up “What if Star Wars Episode 1 was good?” by Belated Media on Youtube if you haven’t already. While I didn’t think the first episode was that terrible, the video has some interesting twists). 🙂
But I think you make some great points. Thanks for sharing. 🙂