10 Pop Culture Theories Worth Knowing
The age of the internet has turned waxing lyrical about our favourite fictions into a global discussion. With that has come the fan theories that fill in the plot holes and add to – sometimes outright change – the meaning of the story. Once you’ve sifted through the many, many explanations why Sherlock and Watson are totally gay for each other there are some real head scratchers. Here’s nine you should know plus one of my own.
10. The Pixar Unified Universe Theory
Pixar is home to more than a couple of theories – Andy’s parents are getting a divorce, WALL-E is psychotic and murdering other robots for parts, etc – but none are as popular or encompassing as the recent unified universe theory. What’s enjoyable about this theory is how thorough it is. Every movie created by Pixar from Toy Story right up to Monsters University exist on a single timeline of one world. It would be an article unto itself to explain the whole thing in any form of detail, but the most important part rests with the monsters living in a future post-human world, and Boo travelling back in time via the doorways to become witch in Brave, starting the whole cycle.
9. Willy Wonka Planned for the Children to Die
Gosh, that Wonka. So condescending and silly. Sure, all those children died (maybe?) during the course of his tour but that wasn’t his fault. He was in a panic when Augustus Gloop fell into that chocolate river. He didn’t want them to get hurt, it was their own violation. Except…how many empty seats were on that boat?
Or on the Wonkamobile?
Huh. It’s like he expected some of the tour group to be absent by this stage…
8. Stan Lee Isn’t Just a Cameo
If you’ve been watching the frequent output of Marvel movies over the past decade you may have noticed a recurring face turning up in all manner of places and roles.
For the uninitiated that is the famous Stan Lee, creator of all the characters those movies are about. Naturally he stepped onto the set for a sneaky cameo in those movies. It’s a fun little Easter Egg for fans. Or maybe it’s more than that. Meet Uatu.
This large headed, fashion conscious individual is part of an alien race who maintains a close watch on less civilised planets to make sure they don’t blow themselves up. Usually they keep a vow not to interfere, but Uatu occasionally pops down to Earth to steer the heroes in the right direction. He turns up when they’re at their lowest to give them the help they need. Kinda like Stan Lee in Spider-Man 3.
7. What is James Bond?
A simple question with a straight forward answer: secret agent, gentleman spy, epitome of cool. Except…
He keeps changing his face. Also his mannerisms, attitude, era and dress sense (within the scope of tuxedo suits). It has long been an accepted part of the canon that we need to recast Bond every few years, but some have sought to explain it as part of a wider story. The first theory was pretty simple – ‘James Bond’ is the code named given to a new agent when the previous expires or stands down. It worked well – Connery stepped down after faking his death and defeating Blofed in Japan. Lazenbury was next but the murder of his wife turned him into a liability, so Connery came back to finish the job on one last mission. Dalton was taken off the books after going off mission, and Brosnan after he was suspected of leaking information.
Sadly it isn’t that neat. Connery is strangely invested in avenging Tracy’s death, and they all seem to own the classic Aston Martin. Maybe he is the same person. Who can change his appearance, is strangely invested in the British Empire, enjoys a suit and goes through companions at a rapid rate. That sounds like a Time Lord.
Also Mary Poppins. Bag bigger on the inside, strange technology, oddball behaviour.
6. The Breaking Bad/Malcolm in the Middle Connection
The notion that Hal from Malcolm in the Middle is Walter White from Breaking Bad under witness protection was less a theory and more of a running joke. It did become so wide spread that there was a scene made with Jane Kaczmarek added to the Breaking Bad final season DVD. But let’s face it…the entire premise was based on the characters being played by the same actor. Hardly a conspiracy.
Although…maybe everyone was looking at the wrong character. Walt and Hal had little in common. Walt was meticulous, brilliant and ruthless when needed. That sounds like someone else.
So Malcolm grows up, changes his name to get away from his family of lunatics, winds up looking like his father…and that’s where Breaking Bad picks up.
5. Spongebob and His Friends are Mutants
Gosh, aren’t Spongebob and his friends a jolly and wacky little bunch! There they are, living under the water at Bikini Bottom, getting up to adventures. Except…did you know there’s a real place called Bikini Atoll? It was used by the American government for, well, see for yourself:
Quite a few bombs were detonated in those waters during the Cold War, and the area is quite irradiated these days. Possibly enough to cause mutations in the local wildlife. Leading to Spongebob and his friends.
4. The Unified Tarantino Universe
Just like the Pixar films, the complete works of Quentin Tarantino exist in an alternative universe that slightly differs from our own. This entry ranks higher on this list than the Pixar Universe because it’s just so much neater. There are the obvious bits and pieces, such as the fictional brand Red Apple cigarettes appearing in each film.
Then we need to look at the characters. John Travolta played Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, and those paying attention would have noticed that Mister Blonde’s real name (Reservoir Dogs) is Vic Vega. Mister White (Harvey Keitel) is noted to have worked with Alabama (Patrica Arquette), who appeared in True Romance. Donny ‘The Bear Jew’ Donowitz (Eli Roth) in Inglourious Basterds is the father of movie producer Lee Donowitz in True Romance. There’s even a link between Christopher Walken’s Pulp Fiction character, Capt. Kooms, and Django Unchained.
There are more examples of recurring and related characters, but in the interests of being concise we’re leave it at that. But there are some missing links – namely the branching history and the downright insane attitude towards violence and pop culture. To answer that we need to look at how WWII ended in the Tarantino universe – a gung-ho, bloody as hell raid on a cinema to assassinate Adolf Hitler. A small team of US marines brought the war to a close amid a rain of bullets while a violent movie played in the background. It’s no wonder everyone is killing each other and obsessing over movies – it was the defining point of modern America! That doesn’t explain Kill Bill, though…
Oh. I guess someone decided to reboot that show in the Tarantino universe.
3. The Flintstones and Jetsons Live Together
There are more than a couple of parallels between George Jetson’s family and Fred Flintstones’ modern stone-age family. There communities are structured the same, they hold the same basic values and although the Flintstones supposedly live in the distant past they have surprising technological advancements, albiet made possible with dinosaurs. Not that humans and dinosaurs ever shared the Earth.
When you pair these oddities with the fact that you never see the surface of the world in The Jetsons. When you consider that the dinosaurs may have been genetically created and trained to fullfil specific tasks, perhaps the Flintstones live on the abandoned and destitute planet surface while the upper class Jetsons live above it all.
2. We Were Watching the Wrong Totem in Inception
My god, that spinning top. If the final scene had run for a few more seconds we’d know whether or not it was a dream. Unless…the spinning top doesn’t tell us anything.
What do we know about totems? According to the movie they are small items unique to one person who uses them to tell if they’re in a dream or not. The boldface, underlined key point is that you can’t mess around with someone else’s totem. The spinning top was not Cobb’s totem, but Mal’s, and it’s possibly because Cobb manipulated it that Mal could no longer tell dream from reality. Cobb carries the spinning top because it belonged to his wife, who is kinda a big deal for him and his entire motivation. The real question isn’t whether or not the top falls, but where Cobb’s totem is.
Cobb’s wedding ring. Watch it carefully during the movie and you’ll notice that it disappears and reappears at specific times. By specifically we mean it only appears on his hand when he’s inside a dream.
It fits the criteria of being a totem. It’s small, personal and no-one else touches it. He often checks it during the dream sequences to ensure that it’s still there. And at the end of the movie…it’s not there.
1. Calvin as a Teenager
Ok, this is my own theory and I haven’t seen it turn up anywhere else. Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes (you’ve heard of it) and Jeremy from Zits is the same person. There’s a striking resemblance between the two and they have similar fashion sense. They’re both dreamers who are easily distracted from their goals. They’re loyal to their friends to a fault, they’re confused about the opposite gender and in spite of their behaviour they’re both highly intelligent. Calvin is never out of trouble at school, but his extensive vocabulary and philosophical outlook suggests that he is just bored with what school has to offer, whilst Jeremy pulls in high grades in spite of his procrastination.
Then there’s the parents.
These are Calvin’s parents (whose names were never revealed). Clearly they’re under a lot of stress. What might they look like after a decade of dealing with Calvin? Perhaps like this…
Sure Hobbes isn’t around, but how many teenage boys keep their stuffed animals on display? The only major hole in the theory is the name change from Calvin to Jeremy, but as Jeremy is going through a period of self-discovery and identity it’s not unreasonable to think that he adopted his middle name. Maybe it looked better on his imagined band poster.