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Any mentally unbalanced individual can come up with a creepy fan theory about your favorite cartoon -- that's why they're called "fan" theories. However, every once in a while we come across some that are just too compelling to ignore, even if reading them guarantees that we won't sleep for the next month.

So once again we dove into the massive cesspool of deranged interpretations, overanalyses, and obsessive rants that is the Internet and emerged with the most strangely plausible fan theories out there. May our sacrifice allow you to blow your friends' minds the next time you're stoned. (Also, spoilers ahead, dummy.)

5
Toy Story 3 Is an Allegory for the Holocaust

Pixar

Toy Story 3 is arguably the darkest film in Pixar's flagship trilogy, but it's still a heartwarming tale about friendship, growing up, and sticking together through the hardest times (like, say, during a Randy Newman song montage). Oh, and also it's about the mass extermination of millions of people in concentration camps.

Pixar
"Rex, why are you smiling?"

The Theory:

According to film critic Jordan Hoffman, Toy Story 3 is totally about the Holocaust. Then again, in the same article he goes on to make a case for the movie being Marxist propaganda, an existentialist film, and a metaphor for various world religions, so maybe he wasn't being completely serious there. The Holocaust theory is the one that caught the attention of the Internet, though, because of the surprising number of parallels between this lighthearted story about talking toys and one of humanity's greatest tragedies.

Why It's Not That Crazy:

Let's look at the plot: It starts when the Jewish people (represented by the toys) are left behind by their host nations at the onset of World War II (represented by Andy going off to get high and score in college). At this point the toys' leader, Woody, suggests hiding in the attic, Anne Frank style, but they get caught and shipped off to Sunnyside Daycare -- you know, a place where their kind is "concentrated" and routinely mistreated (only by little children instead of Nazis).

Pixar
Although this kid is probably both.

The abusive toys who live in Sunnyside are the movie's version of the Jewish police who helped push their fellow Jews into trains for Auschwitz. Because of them, the main characters end up on a conveyor belt ... headed straight for the incinerator.

Holy shit, Pixar. There's even a sad scene where the toys grab hands and accept their fate.

Pixar
"Goddammit, Rex! Why are you still smirking?"

And then, of course, they get saved by toy aliens, who obviously stand for the Allies. The protagonists eventually relocate to a new place where "many of their kind already live and have an established foothold" (Israel/a little girl's house). So there you go: The next time someone tells you they heard an awesome theory about the identity of Andy's mom, you can tell them, "Oh, I know. She's the Gestapo who sent the toys away."

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4
Who Framed Roger Rabbit Is About Segregation

Walt Disney

Who Framed Roger Rabbit, better known to kids as "that movie with Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny" and to teens and adults as "that movie with Jessica Rabbit's gazongas," is set in a world where humans interact with cartoon characters. The film follows human PI Eddie Valiant as he investigates a murder involving Roger Rabbit, which leads us to discover that Judge Doom (a corrupt official played by Christopher Lloyd) wants to kill all the cartoons by submerging them in his "Dip" concoction.

Walt Disney
"It's my special blend of meth, angel dust, and 'Judge juice.'"

The Theory:

The plot we just described is a metaphor for the gentrification and segregation of blacks in Los Angeles, or so claims renowned film scholar "reddit account deleted."

Why It's Not That Crazy:

Short of the filmmakers including a talking crow called Jim to spell it out, the clues couldn't be more obvious. The movie takes place in 1947, at the height of the Jim Crow era, where mandated state and local laws prohibited whites and blacks from having the same shit or being in the same places. Doesn't Toontown, the city where the toons live near Hollywood, feel a little more sinister in that context?

Walt Disney
The cutscene with Eddie and the offensive sandwich board was later used for Die Hard 3.

The villain, Judge Doom, wants to tear down the trolley system to force the toons out of their home so they can build a freeway for the wealthy humans -- that's called gentrification, an issue that remains controversial in LA to this day. Also, most of the cartoons are performers, which of course was one of the "acceptable" occupations for black people at the time. You don't see any cartoon doctors or lawyers ... unless they're pretending to be human, like Judge Doom himself. That makes Doom an Uncle Tom character: a minority who sells out his own race for his personal benefit, like Samuel L. Jackson in Django, only less cartoonish.

Then there's Jessica Rabbit, to whom Eddie is clearly attracted, despite his claims that he hates cartoons. His confusion is representative of the confusion of many white males who lusted after black women despite seeing blacks as inferior.

Walt Disney
Which means your childhood boner was awkward and racist.

And finally, in the movie the word "toon" is treated like a racial slur that humans use to offend cartoon characters. Now say the word out loud but replace the first letter with a "C."

We're telling you, once you start noticing this shit, the world becomes a darker place.

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3
Dexter in Dexter's Laboratory Has Asperger's Syndrome

Cartoon Network Studios

Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory was the envy of every science-minded kid who had to make do with an incomplete junior chemistry set and some hand-me-down LEGO Technics. He had a huge secret lab under his house and seemingly unlimited resources to build anything he imagined -- for instance, his own Dexo-Transformer, which he used to terrorize his bullies in dodgeball.

Cartoon Network Studios
"T-Bag Mode: Engaged."

The Theory:

According to this theory from TV Tropes, Dexter's life isn't as cool as it looks, since he suffers from Asperger's syndrome ... but, you know, so do half the My Little Ponies, probably. If there's one thing the Internet loves more than fake diagnosing itself with Asperger's, it's fake diagnosing its favorite characters with it.

Why It's Not That Crazy:

A strong case can be made for Dexter, though. Look at his personality: He struggles to interact with others socially, has repetitive patterns he adheres to, and has very unique interests -- if Dexter could, he wouldn't leave his lab. These are all signs of Asperger's, as is his baffling pseudo-Austrian accent: A lot of people with this condition sound like foreigners to their own families because they mimic words the way they were pronounced when they first heard them (in many cases, on TV).

Cartoon Network Studios
"The Schwarzenegger marathon ends when I say it ends."

OK, so the kid might be an Aspie, but does that change anything in the show? Actually, it changes everything, because we view all the other characters through Dexter's lens, and people with Asperger's have trouble empathizing with others. He views his sister Dee Dee as a huge dolt, but what if he just doesn't understand girls? His mom appears to have constant mood swings, but could it be that Dexter doesn't know when he's making her angry? Meanwhile, his dad is always a bumbling incompetent, but maybe Dexter is simply disappointed that he isn't a world class genius.

Cartoon Network Studios
He has all that food because it usually takes him three days to remember how to get out of the recline setting.

Then there's Dexter's rival, Mandark, who is practically a supervillain when we first meet him, but becomes a much more sympathetic character when we're not looking at him from the Asperger's-having protagonist's point of view. At any rate, this makes way more sense than the "Dexter becomes a serial killer on Showtime" theory.

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2
Hey Arnold! Is Actually About Helga (and Super Depressing)

Nickelodeon Animation Studio

Hey Arnold! follows Arnold, a fourth grader who lives with his grandparents, and the trials and experiences he has with his friends in a large city. If you've ever turned on Nickelodeon for more than five seconds, you've seen this shit.

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
His brain is the size of a watermelon, but he still can't pick appropriate-size clothing?

The Theory:

Except that the real protagonist is the antagonist, Helga G. Pataki, a unibrowed bully who constantly makes fun of Arnold's hideous deformity by calling him "football head." So says Redditor iSmokeTheXS, who has apparently never noticed the name of the goddamn show.

Why It's Not That Crazy:

But, wait a minute -- who shouts "Hey Arnold!" (repeatedly) during the show's intro? Helga. And who is the only character who gets to have a monologue (about how much she secretly loves Arnold) in every episode? Helga. Everything that unfolds then is recounted to the viewer, by her, in her opinion.

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Seriously, what is up with these characters and their ridiculously disproportionate headgear?

This makes sense, because Helga's life is a lot more dramatically interesting than Arnold's -- she's a bully, yes, but this is caused by a neglectful father and a mother who desperately needs to visit an AA meeting. Her older sister, Olga, is adored, while Helga is scorned, neglected, and treated as if she was the black sheep in the family -- her father simply refers to her as "the girl" in several episodes. And to top it all off, she has feelings for a boy but doesn't know how to express it, so she's mean to him.

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Come on. Who didn't go through that fourth grade serial killer/voodoo altar phase?

And that's what the show is about, ultimately: Helga's obsession with a strange-headed boy, and how she finds meaning in her otherwise bleak life through him. Hence the title, and the disproportionate amount of screen time for Arnold, a secondary character. It's no wonder that the creators wanted to make a spinoff that was openly about Helga, but it was shot down for being too depressing.

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1
My Neighbor Totoro Is Based on a Real-Life Crime

Toho

My Neighbor Totoro is a Japanese animated film that follows two sisters and their interactions with magical forest creatures known as totoros. Together, they embark on wonderful adventures, and ... that's it. There's no confusing metaphysical ending where everyone dies. No weird sexual stuff. No tentacles. Finally, a Japanese movie we can watch with our family and still make eye contact afterward!

The Theory:

Not so fast: My Neighbor Totoro is a reference to a horrific crime known as the Sayama Incident, and those friendly totoros? Yeah, they represent death.

Toho
Death representations are somewhat better fed in Asia.

Or at least that's what one widely spread urban legend says. A legend that is full of made-up facts and inaccuracies, and that the studio has specifically denied. Phew.

Why It's Not That Crazy:

We'd like to believe this theory is completely bogus. We really would. But, sadly, even discounting all the made-up stuff, it still makes a lot of sense. Let us explain: The Sayama Incident happened in May 1963 in Sayama City, when a man kidnapped and murdered a 16-year-old girl. Later, the girl's older sister committed suicide. What the hell does that have to do with a movie about big fluffy cats? First, the sisters' names in the movie are related to the month of May -- they're called Satsuki ("May" in Japanese) and Mei (which sounds like "May").

Second, the movie doesn't take place in Sayama, but it's in the same area, and at one point you see the word "Sayama" on a box of tea:

Toho
"This tea is to die for."

It gets creepier: At one point in the movie, Mei, the little sister, goes missing. We then see her crying at the feet of some Jizo statues, which are a real thing and the protectors of "those who die at a young age." Buckle the fuck up, because it only gets more depressing.

Toho
"Look on the bright side, kid. Death isn't the worst thing that could happen to you in a Japanese cartoon."

In the film, Satsuki asks the totoros for help, so they use Catbus to take her to where Mei is -- according to this theory, the afterlife. Oh, and what does it say on the bus' sign? "GRAVE ROAD."

Toho
Check for yourself.

In the end, the girls return home ... or do they? In the last scenes, they appear to have no shadows, which means they're ghosts, or they're vampires, or the animators cheaped out. In other words, like the real sisters in the Sayama Incident, the little one goes missing and dies, and the older, torn with grief, soon follows her. The totoros are just clever symbolic objects to depict death.

We need to curl up under a bed for a moment now.


Matt has a Twitter here and a blog here.

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Related Reading: Speaking of hidden movie meanings, did you know the webs in the Spiderman movies symbolize man-juice? That one might be a little more obvious than the fact that Aliens was an allegory for the Vietnam war. And if you'd like to know the dark, hidden secret behind Back to the Future, you'd best click here.

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