Not all fan theories are created equal. Some are brilliant breakthroughs that unlock a whole new understanding of a popular show or movie. Others are ... totally off the mark. That's okay, because part of being a fan is interacting with what you love! There are bad fan theories, but no bad fan theorists, in other words.
The problem arises when a legitimate entertainment news source spreads around one of these theories, milking it for your hard-earned click rather than actually engaging with the theory on its merits and contributing to the discourse. When that happens, SYFY WIRE will let you know which viral fan theories should be dismissed.
Before we get to the new theories, let's briefly revisit an old, old one, because it's a great example of how the entire fan theory reporting industry is a content ouroboros. A ton of websites ran stories about a so-called new fan theory claiming that Littlefinger faked his death last season, and that he'll return in Game of Thrones' eighth season. The theory is a dubious one — from a storytelling perspective, it would be insane to drop that plot twist into an already crowded season — but there's something more curious about the recent spate of news stories covering it. All the stories cite a YouTube video laying out the theory… that came out on December 9, 2017.
Many of these websites covered the theory when it first when viral over a year ago. But, because somebody, somewhere, wrote about it again in February 2019, they started a chain reaction where everyone else wanted to get in on that sweet potential traffic, passing off an old, specious theory as hot new content.
None of the sites that wrote about the theory this month were really engaging in critical analysis of the theory or attempting to curate a good idea and present it to their readers — they were just playing along with everyone else, aggregating an aggregation of an aggregation. In the process, these websites astroturfed a new level of interest in an old theory. This is how the Fan Theory Industrial Complex shapes and degrades discourse around your favorite show.
Anyway, this week's there's a Game of Thrones theory that's actually new along with one Avengers: Endgame theory. Let's get to it.
Jon Snow will become the Night King in order to lead the army of the dead to victory against Cersei
For further proof that most of the articles about fan theories are just second-hand aggregations, consider that when the Daily Express published a story about this fan theory, they made a typo when spelling the name of the Redditor who originally came up with it. When the Sun aggregated the story a day later, they used the same misspelling of the Redditor's username. Nobody involved cared even a little about getting basic facts right, so why on Earth should you trust them to be insightful about whether or not the theory has any merit?
It doesn't have merit, for what it's worth. The theory posits that Jon Snow will somehow become the Night King or otherwise gain control of the army of wights and use them to defeat Cersei's army. While the idea that a hero will have to turn over to the dark side (and leave his love behind) in order to take control and save the day is a classic storytelling trope, this theory makes a hell of a leap when it just assumes that Jon can become the Night King. Also, making Cersei's army out to be more dangerous than the supernaturally evil White Walkers that have been the ultimate villains of the entire series so far would be a weird way to end things.
The Thanos at the End of Infinity War was fake (Kevin Smith hates this theory)
A big part of the way that fan theories are irresponsibly reported has to do with the way they're framed. Headlines will often imply that a theory is groundbreaking and plausible, because it's more likely that a potential reader will want to click to find out what the theory is. The problem comes when a theory is explicitly a bad theory that has no chance of being true, yet the story about it initially presents it as plausible.
A great example of this came, weirdly enough, via Kevin Smith, who mentioned a bogus Avengers: Endgame theory on an episode of his podcast Fatman on Batman.
"It's a fan theory, I don't know where it comes from… that the Thanos we met was not the real Thanos, but an alternate reality Thanos, and that Avengers: Endgame is going to have the real Thanos, who is the Thanos that we saw in the mid-credits sequence in Avengers," he recalled.
This is an overly complicated theory that doesn't make sense — Where did the alternate Thanos come from? What possible reason is there for Marvel to complicate the one villain who has been a clear and constant threat for a decade's worth of movies?
Smith agrees as he goes on to say that the theory "sounds f***ing far-fetched," "crazy," and "crackpot."
And yet the site that aggregated the theory Smith brought up specifically because it was wildly unlikely framed the story in a way that made it seem like Smith was endorsing it.
"According to Kevin Smith, one big revelation of Avengers: Endgame will be the fact that the Thanos we met in Avengers: Infinity War wasn't actually the real version of the Mad Titan!" reads the article. Later down in the story, there's an explanation with more nuance about how the theory isn't likely and that Smith didn't actually believe it, which leads one to wonder why bother writing about it in the first place?