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Origin stories are almost always huge money-makers. Even the god-awful Star Wars prequels still managed to make an obscene amount of money solely because they were about the birth of Darth Vader. So you have to wonder why every pop culture icon hasn't yet been given its own juicy backstory, and the short answer is: It has. It's just that with some movie and TV origins, you have to look all the way in the background or deleted scenes to discover that ...

6
Heath Ledger's Joker Was Probably a Soldier

Warner Bros.

When The Dark Knight came out in 2008, comic book purists shat enough bricks to build the filthiest replica of the Great Wall of China. Suddenly, all the changes made to the Joker character that they bemoaned -- like the face scars and making him an anarchist bomb expert -- didn't seem to matter in light of everything Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger did with the character.

Their Joker was scary, intimidating, and, true to the comic books, even had a mysterious origin that kept him a fascinating, psychopathic enigma ... provided you ignore all the clues that clearly point to the Joker's military background.

Warner Bros.
They're very subtle, but they're there.

Throughout the movie, the Joker shows remarkable comfort with military-grade weaponry like grenades, explosives, and machine guns, and after extensive Googling followed by a visit from two very nice federal agents, I can tell you that you can't learn how to use that stuff from the Internet. I'm also pretty sure that you wouldn't be able to blow up whole building complexes or hit a moving vehicle with a rocket launcher from inside a speeding truck without at least some practice. And unless the Joker grew up in the city from the GTA games, the only place he could have practiced that is the military.

That's not even my own stupid opinion. That's actually one of the "official" possible origins for the Joker found in The Dark Knight Manual, a 2012 tie-in book for The Dark Knight Rises.

Warner Bros.
"You want to know how I got these scars? Only $28.65! Order now!"

Actually, a stint in the military would explain a lot of other things about the character, like the, well, military precision of his tactics, including the time he killed a guy using a precisely timed school bus. Plus, there's this seemingly random piece of dialogue the Joker says in the movie:

"I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all 'part of the plan.'"

Of all the things he could have used as an example, it's interesting that the Joker would bring up soldiers getting blown up, especially as shrapnel wounds would be the perfect explanation for his scars. Add some inevitable PTSD into the mix and suddenly you see Ledger's Clown Prince of Crime for who he really is: an ex-soldier who became disfigured, snapped, and later spent the entire movie killing mayors, district attorneys, and police commissioners, aka people who in his troubled mind were representatives of the government that sent him to war.

Warner Bros.
The clothing choices of a man who's sick of camo.

5
Jack Sparrow Became a Pirate Because He Refused to Haul Slaves

Walt Disney

It's a true testament to Johnny Depp's acting abilities that he was able to make a pop culture icon out of Captain Jack Sparrow, an obviously stoned jackass from a Disney movie based on a boat ride.

Walt Disney
"Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of opiates."

Maybe it's the inability to tell whether Jack is good or evil that ultimately draws audiences to him. After all, he did betray Orlando Bloom to the monstrous Davy Jones one time, but then he risked his life to go back and save his crew/ship at the end of Dead Man's Chest. So, if Jack Sparrow's selling point is his moral ambiguity, then I completely understand why the following exchange was removed from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End:

In this deleted scene, we see Cutler Beckett, president of the East India Trading Company, talking to Sparrow about their shared past. From their short conversation we learn that, many years before the events of the first Pirates film, Jack was working for the EITC until he was trusted with transporting "cargo" that turned out to be a shipment of slaves. So, being Jack Sparrow, he set them free, simply telling Beckett in the deleted scene that "People aren't cargo, mate."

Walt Disney

There. Right there. Just as he says that, you can see the exact moment when Jack Sparrow goes from a morally ambiguous asshole to an all-around decent person. When he delivers the line, he doesn't ruin it with any of his trademark silly gestures, instead saying it in a kind of sad, matter-of-fact way, almost as if he had to explain to another person that water is wet.

Even though what he did resulted in being branded a pirate, you don't hear any hesitation in his voice, because for all the shitty things Jack Sparrow might have done, he'd never condemn an innocent person to a lifetime of slavery. It's probably the most character development he's gotten throughout all four Pirates movies, and it made him look so cool that of course they had to cut it, otherwise no man would ever have sex without having to put on a Jack Sparrow mask. And speaking of sex ...

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4
Nala Was Almost Raped by Scar

Walt Disney

The Lion King has left such a gigantic impact on our childhoods that if you asked 10 random people in their late 20s if they still remember the songs from the movie, eight would say yes, and two would break into "Hakuna Matata." But while we're on the topic of The Lion King songs, did you know that one of them is about rape?

The song in question is called "The Madness of King Scar," and it's all about how hot Scar is for Nala (Simba's childhood friend) and how he'll mate with her whether she likes it or not.

"The Madness of King Scar," which was cut from the movie but kept in the stage adaptation, was supposed to take place after Scar killed his brother and finally became king. It starts off with Scar singing about how nobody likes him before deciding that what he truly needs to be happy is a queen. And luckily, just then Nala enters the scene to bitch Scar out for not controlling the hyenas. The king, who has known the lioness since she was a cub, takes one look at her and goes ...

"Ah, Nala ... Your timing couldn't have been more perfect. My how you've grown."

Walt Disney
Gross.

As Nala continues talking, Scar instead proposes that they skip all this foreplay that Nala wasn't even aware they were having and go create a host of little Scars. Not waiting for a proper answer, Scar then pounces on Nala and gets his fuzzy ass kicked before rolling out one of the creepiest lines in a Disney movie ever:

"Oh, Nala ... you know how I loathe violence ... One way or another, you will be mine."

Walt Disney
And that's pretty much your face hearing that, too.

The song was originally meant to explain why Nala left the Pride Lands before eventually encountering the grown-up Simba and trying to convince him to take his rightful place as king. But apparently Disney decided that plot holes were a small price to pay to keep the audience from ever uttering the words, "Wait, did Disney actually make a song about rape?!"

3
Spock Is a Descendant of Sherlock Holmes

CBS Television Distribution

If Star Trek were a pop band, Spock would be the mysterious older member who continues to receive moist fan underwear in the mail, and it's easy to see why: Spock is stoic and highly educated, and he'd never bullshit you, which also means that if he claims to be a descendant of Sherlock Holmes, you know he's being serious.

CBS Television Distribution
Same as when he tells Kirk that he's his prison wife now.

In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, there is a scene where the USS Enterprise appears to fire on a Klingon ship despite Kirk being nowhere near the controls or the liquor cabinet, to which the ever logical Spock replies:

"An ancestor of mine maintained that when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. If we did not fire those torpedoes, another ship did."

If that first part sounds a tad familiar, it's because it comes from the 1890 Sherlock Holmes story "The Sign of the Four," a fact most definitely known by Spock, who's well-versed in both Vulcan and human cultures. This means that Spock definitely wouldn't bring up his ancestor if he was just some random guy who at one time appropriated Holmes' famous quote; he'd simply have said, "Sherlock Holmes maintained ..." In this case, we can assume that Spock traces his lineage back to the fictional detective or his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

This obviously gets a bit muddy in our present, where we have since rebooted both the Star Trek franchise and the Sherlock Holmes franchise a bunch of different times, but it's still great to dream that all of these people ...

CBS Television Distribution, Paramount Pictures, BBC, Warner Bros., NBCUniversal Television Distribution

Hey, New Spock, don't trust that dude on the right.

... are related in some way. But that's enough about ridiculous theories and Star Trek.

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2
Kirk Is a Space-Holocaust Survivor

CBS Television Distribution

PSYCH! Fuck you.

You know, for all the problems I had with J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, he at least got the personality of James Kirk down to a T, introducing him as he's speeding away in a stolen car, almost killing himself in the process.

It's a real mystery: After so many years of violating the law and Starfleet directives (often with his penis), how would anyone ever give Captain Kirk command of anything more complex than a broken down go-kart? How does a person even become such a reckless piece of shit with crippling authority issues? If you've paid attention to the title of this entry, you already know that the answer is "surviving a space-Holocaust."

Paramount Pictures
Sadly, his hair didn't make it.

Before the events of the original Star Trek series, James T. Kirk was living on the planet Tarsus IV when a fungus destroyed most of the human colony's food supply. To prevent everyone from throwing a Donner party, the colony's governor came up with an ingenious solution: killing half of the 8,000 colonists on Tarsus and earning himself the cool nickname of "Kodos the Executioner."

CBS Television Distribution
"This is going to get me so much tail."

But merely being an insane mass murderer isn't enough to start drawing parallels between Kodos and Hitler. That's where Kodos' views on eugenics come in, as he only allowed those he personally deemed pure and "worthy" to be spared the slaughter, all in the name of genetic supremacy. (Honestly, that fungus was probably the best thing that's ever happened to Kodos.) For some reason, that also included Kirk, who survived the extermination and later got to confront Kodos in the episode "The Conscience of the King."

And with that episode, the great puzzle that's been James T. Kirk finally stopped resembling a giant, erect penis. The whoring, the insubordination, the apparent disregard for his own life ... who wouldn't turn out like that after his friends and family were killed by a space Nazi? And having to go through all of that when he was just 12? Kirk never had a chance, leaving him with only two ways to silence the traumatic voices in his head: living life to the fullest or manning up and boldly going to the nearest therapist's office.

CBS Television Distribution
He went with the first option.

1
Optimus Prime Is the Six Million Dollar Robot

Hasbro

Optimus Prime, the heroic leader of the Autobots in the Transformers TV series, has been a hero to a whole generation of kids because he's always felt like a dorky, peace-loving philosopher that's been put into the body of a semi-truck on two legs. That's pretty deep and complex for an '80s cartoon. It's also pretty much the summary of the character's origin.

In the Season 2 episode "War Dawn," a group of Autobots travel 9 million years to the past to Cybertron, where they encounter a naive dock worker named Orion Pax, who appears to be wearing lipstick for some reason.

Hasbro

That robot naturally turns out to be Optimus Prime before he rebranded himself and sanded off a few wrinkles here and there to hide the fact that he's over 9 million years old.

It turns out that a handful of ice ages ago, Orion Pax was a typical a blue-collar guy with a girlfriend named Ariel and a raging hard-on for Megatron, part of the new generation of flying robots. But all of it changed when Pax stupidly led Megatron into the warehouse he was working in, which also housed massive energy reserves. Megatron then promptly killed Ariel and Pax before taking off with the contents of the warehouse, teaching kids everywhere a valuable lesson about never meeting your heroes (because they might kill you).

Hasbro
"I sure hope I'll never have to go through this again."

But as luck would have it, the Autobots from the future came upon Pax and carried him to a machinesmith, who brought him back from the dead as a kickass warrior capable of defeating the traitorous Decepticons. "How did he do it?" and "Why couldn't he do it again to a whole army of Autobots and end the brewing civil war on Cybertron?" are questions that just get in the way of giant robots punching each other.

I'm sure that this origin has been retconned in the comics or other Transformers properties over the years, but going only by the cartoon, it means that the Optimus Prime you know is pretty much a robo-zombie mixed with the alien version of Lee Majors from The Six Million Dollar Man. Huh, no wonder girls never watched this show.


Cezary Jan Strusiewisz is a freelance Cracked columnist and editor. Contact him at c.j.strusiewicz@gmail.com.

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