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 still great, 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.
What's not great is 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 dig in and suss out the real facts (whenever that's possible, of course).
It's now officially less than a month until the premiere of Game of Thrones’ final season, and the premiere of Avengers: Endgame won't be long after that. As expected, there are plenty of fan theories as we head into the final stretch. This week we've got an Endgame fan theory that got caught up in the internet pile-on, a general warning about an entire class of Endgame theorizing, and the bane of my existence finding a way to make the "Bran is the Night King" theory even worse. Let’s get crackalackin'.
Avengers: Endgame will 'rewrite the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it'
The point of this column has not been to dunk on bad fan theories (although that happens), it's been to critique specious theories in service of media literacy and to point out bad practices when news websites unscrupulously aggregate these rumors and theories. Pajiba's Senior Editor Seth Freilich wrote a post that was an excellent example of how fan theory "reporting" often goes so wrong, and why it's important to be careful with what you read and what you believe.
In the post, Freilich explains that he works another job at Atom Tickets, and that part of that job involves writing up synopses for upcoming movies that the company sells tickets to. Freilich recounted how the synopsis for Avengers: Endgame that Atom Tickets wrote up included the line "Avengers: Endgame will rewrite the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it."
Fan theorists posited that this was a hint that the film would literally rewrite or reboot the MCU in some way, perhaps with an alternate or fresh timeline. However, as Freilich notes, Disney did not write this synopsis, and the folks at Atom Tickets didn't have any sort of insider information. It's just third-party marketing copy.
However, for many news sites, it was also content. Comicbook.com wrote up the story, though Freilich praised the site for acknowledging that it was possible the blurb did not come from Disney, and for adding an update to the story once Atom Tickets confirmed the synopsis came from them. Freilich is perhaps being a little kinder to Comicbook.com than I would've been — if the synopsis' origin was so unclear to begin with, was it really responsible to write a post about it? Because, even if Comicbook.com took appropriate steps to place the theory in context and cast a somewhat reasonable amount of doubt onto it, the post started a fire.
"I've seen dozens more pieces all citing the Atom movie summary and this same theory. Some note skepticism, some don't," Freilich writes, explaining that these secondhand aggregations pushed this theory without even bothering to look into its veracity.
"Few cite [the Comicbook.com author] and none cite his update," he writes. "Because then there'd be no piece for them to post at all, no clicks for them to get. Because it's now a disproven theory, a nothing story. I'm not linking to any of them because they're trash pieces seeking trash clicks.
"We all know that we've got to be ever skeptical when it comes to reading s*** online," Freilich continues. "But it's rare to be able to see the true origins of a stupid internet rumor, so I thought I'd pull back the curtain. As always, trust no one."
Avengers: Endgame will set-up the X-Men in the MCU
Now that Disney officially owns Fox, the film rights to the X-Men and the rest of Marvel’s characters are finally under the same roof. With Avengers: Endgame about to launch the MCU into uncharted new territory, there are lots of theories (and aggregated news posts about those theories) positing that Endgame will introduce Mutants to the MCU. From a narrative perspective, it would make sense — Marvel would get a whole bunch of new characters as some of the old guard prepare to exit.
I'm going to stop short of saying that all these theories are bad, because they make a certain amount of sense, and I don't know what's going to happen for sure. But I would advise readers to be very, very, very wary of these claims. Sure, it makes sense for the narrative of the MCU, and there are ways it makes sense within the fiction of the franchise, but good entertainment journalism needs to consider the real world, too.
Consider that Disney's acquisition of Fox was only finalized on March 19. It was only as of this week that Disney-owned Marvel Studios officially had the film rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Avengers: Endgame hits theaters on April 26. That's not a lot of time for the filmmakers to insert the X-Men into Endgame. Principal photography ended in January of last year, and while there were much more recent reshoots along with the last bits of ongoing post-production, it seems unlikely that the X-Men will be in Endgame.
Maybe — maybe — there's time for an Easter egg or post-credits scene hinting at a certain school for gifted youngsters, but there’s no chance that Mutants will be essential to Endgame's story. It’s just not how business deals or movies are made in the real world.
Plus, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Marvel might not even incorporate the X-Men into the MCU until 2021. While that could change, it's another bit of real-world evidence suggesting that Wolverine won't be kickin' it with Tony Stark in Endgame.
(While we're on the subject of the Disney/Fox merger, please take a moment to remember that this massive acquisition will result in 4,000 to 10,000 people losing their jobs. It's not just about the X-Men and the Avengers.)
Jon Snow is the Night King because of gambling; I wish I were dead
The first two entries in this week's Crazy Fan Theory roundup were teachable moments. Now I'm going to salt the Earth. The Daily Express, a tabloid that does not care about what it's publishing as long as you click on it, is back with another bad fan theory, except this one might not even be a fan theory?
"Game of Thrones Season 8 spoilers," the headline reads. "Jon Snow's connection to the Night King uncovered?"
There are no spoilers, despite that headline, because the story isn't based on insider information or a poorly argued fan theory — or even a well-argued fan theory, even. Instead. The Daily Express cites an online bookmaker, Paddy Power, revealing that the bookies have 4:6 odds that Bran will be the Night King. Now, this is a wildly popular theory that has many, many problems, but it's nothing compared to the claim The Daily Express is making, that Jon Snow will be revealed to be the Night King, since he's in second place in the betting market with 4:1 odds.
This isn't a fan theory. This is a bet with unlikely odds from an Irish bookmaker that once offered bets on whether or not Barack Obama would be assassinated while in office. To use this as the basis for a story that leads your readers to believe that such an improbable event is a Season 8 spoiler is garbage.