6 Pop Culture Mysteries That Were Solved by Fans
Pop culture is full of unsolved mysteries, like "Was Tony Danza the boss?" "What happened to Tony Danza's career?" and "Is Tony Danza even alive?" Some of them are even unrelated to Tony Danza. And some that we thought would never find an answer finally did, but only through the effort of dedicated fans with way too much time on their hands. Like ...
Kubrick Fan Settles 2001: A Space Odyssey/IBM Debate
The epic cinematic mind trip known as 2001: A Space Odyssey gave rise to some of the greatest mysteries in pop culture history, among them "How could Stanley Kubrick go more than 140 minutes into a film without any nudity or sexual innuendo?"
Unless you count all that ape nudity and suggestive bone groping.
However, one of the most intriguing questions surrounding the film is whether HAL 9000, the intelligent computer who murders 90 percent of the cast, was meant to represent IBM, the actual computer company (and the pioneers of artificial intelligence). Those who subscribe to this theory point out that the name "HAL" is one letter removed from "IBM" (go back one letter for each), while those who oppose it point out that Kubrick himself specifically said it was bullshit.
Above: Stanley Kubrick, being Stanley Kubrick.
But what about Arthur C. Clarke, the guy who co-wrote 2001 with Kubrick and wrote the accompanying novel and its sequels? Clarke has been even more vocal than Kubrick about denying the IBM connection, even going as far as to have HAL's creator in one of the books say it's "utter nonsense." So, that pretty much settles it.
How They Solved It:
Or so we thought, until Kubrick fan and filmmaker Robert Ager took a closer look at the HD version of the film and found this:
Sadly, there's no button for "I've just been thrown into space by a computer."
Yep, that's the IBM logo on the little keypad on the suit of one of the astronauts. In the previous scene, one of the characters says, "I can't quite put my finger on" what's wrong with HAL -- and then we cut to a finger "not quite being put" on the IBM logo. If we were talking about literally any other director, we could believe that this was a coincidence (another one), but Kubrick was known for putting an insane amount of detail into his work, even if it meant terrorizing the people who worked for him. This seems exactly like the sort of Easter egg he would include.
Also, it turns out that's not the only time the IBM logo is shown: It's visible on the Pan Am "Space Clipper" at the beginning and, apparently, projected across Dave's face when he's trying to reason with HAL. Can you read it?
Hint: That's not an Apple.
Incidentally, "Can you read me?" is what Dave says when the letters flash across his face, which is basically Kubrick's way of saying "Get it? GET IT?" Did Kubrick intentionally lie to everyone who asked him about the IBM connection, including the movie's writer (who admitted that Kubrick alone came up with the name HAL), just so someone could find this previously unreadable detail when the HD version came out 40 years in the future? Honestly, we wouldn't put it past him. Who knows what else is hidden in there.
YouTuber Solves the Saw Murders Years Before the Films Do
The Saw franchise has earned more than $800 million worldwide, but that's not the only mystery surrounding it. Even though the main character (the Jigsaw killer) has been dead since the third movie, they've managed to keep the series going for four more films by slowly revealing different parts of Jigaw's complicated master plan (which, shockingly, is not just "torture as many dudes as possible").
"And then do it again in 3-D."
Clearly they're just making that shit up as they go along, right? You can't guess the plot of the next Saw movie because the writer himself probably doesn't know it until he sits in front of his laptop and begins snorting the computer's weight in cocaine.
"SCENE 1: Something, something, torture porn. Plot twist!"
Specifically, if the killer spends most of the series terminally ill or dead, how do these movies even make sense? Also, does anyone expect them to?
How They Solved It:
At least one person expected them to: His username is Toberoon, and in 2009 he uploaded a YouTube video that explained how the Saw movies tied together ... two years before the filmmakers revealed the same thing at the end of Saw 3D.
In the video, Toberoon outlined an elaborate theory that Cary Elwes' character from the first Saw film (Dr. Gordon, the guy forced to saw his own foot off) was not only alive, but had also become Jigsaw's apprentice in the subsequent films. According to Toberoon, Jigsaw rescued Gordon when he was mostly dead and hooked him up with a prosthetic foot.
Thankfully, mostly dead is slightly alive.
Toberoon was able to find several clues that Gordon was working with the killer, like a video where "Jigsaw" seemed to be limping while torturing a guy, or the fact that he was able to perform surgical operations even though he was an engineer. Most fans probably didn't notice these clues because, well, they're exactly the sort of plot holes you'd expect from a horror film.
Even though Toberoon only had the first five Saw films to work with, in the seventh one his theory turned out to be 100 percent correct -- not only was Dr. Gordon secretly Jigsaw's unpaid intern this whole time, but it happened exactly as Toberoon's video predicted it:
Or maybe the writers just saw the video and said, "Hey, that makes more sense than what we were planning," which would be kind of impressive in its own way.
Message Board Poster Cracks the Entire Zelda Alphabet
One of the staples of the Legend of Zelda series is the Hylian language, perhaps best known for its odd pronunciation of the word "excuse." You can always find the symbols that make up the language on those awfully convenient signs that some brave soul took the time to place at even the most ridiculously dangerous corners of the land of Hyrule.
"Watch out for the chicken."
Fans curious or obsessed enough to want to know what the signs say usually have to wait for Nintendo to give out the translated alphabet for each game -- but this time they were out of luck. The official Zelda handbook described the language used in the latest game, Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, as impossible to translate.
Link could be stepping into a rape vortex without knowing it. Again.
Some fans tried to crack the code anyway, only to find out that they were all stumped on the same letters. Keep in mind that even the timeline of the various Zelda games was kept in absolute mystery for over 20 years -- Nintendo could easily keep the language a secret for 20 more.
"We're really surprised people care about this stuff, so we've resolved to fuck with them."
How They Solved It:
Sarinilli became a hero to Zelda fans everywhere when she found a small sign in the game that seemed to repeat a random string of characters over and over. Upon closer inspection, she realized the characters weren't random -- it was actually the entire Hylian alphabet written down in sequence, presumably by a lazy programmer who wanted to fill some space, or perhaps someone having a long seizure.
She had found Hyrule's Rosetta stone, at which point she presumably got to hear that fancy secret passage jingle in real life. Sarinilli even created a downloadable font that Zelda fans can use to send confidential messages to one another, or simply mess with Nintendo. As for those mysterious signs all over the game: It turns out they say really exciting stuff like "Read me please," "You can read this" and "Sold out."
"Please lubricate sword before insertion."
Mathematician Solves Beatles Mystery Chord
Something about the instantly recognizable TWANG! that opens the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night (the song, the album and the movie) has eluded music fans for decades. More specifically, what the hell is it?
Think about it: These are the Beatles we're talking about. Every single note in every one of their songs has been analyzed and memorized by someone, somewhere over the past 50 years, and every single one of their albums has been thoroughly combed for clues that Paul was killed and replaced by an android in 1966 ...
We still think there might be something in their single "Paul Was Killed and Replaced by an Android in 1966" (1967).
... and even then, the exact opening chord of one of their best known songs still managed to remain a mystery. George Harrison admitted which notes he was playing shortly before his death, but he didn't know about the others. In the end, the mystery may prove to be just as enduring as the Beatles' legacy, baffling cover bands and Internet lyric databases for all eternity.
How They Solved It:
And by "for all eternity" we mean "until 2004," when a professor at Dalhousie University nailed this beast using a highly advanced method known as "math."
Math is that stuff they sell in Breaking Bad, right?
Professor Jason Brown, a lifelong Beatles enthusiast, used a mathematical operation to split the mystery chord into the exact 29,375 frequencies that compose it. Brown then spent the following six months trying to reconstruct the exact notes used by the Beatles from those frequencies, but something strange happened -- some of them didn't match up to George's lead guitar, or John's rhythm guitar, or Paul's bass.
Or Ringo's whatever.
It turns out that the Beatles threw everyone a curveball by having their producer George Martin play a fourth chord on a piano, which accounted for the extra frequencies in Brown's readings. It was that or Ringo crying.
Alice in Wonderland Fan Finds Out Why a Raven Is Like a Writing Desk
One of the biggest dick moves in literature is the moment when the Mad Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland poses Alice with the riddle "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" ... and then never gives the answer. So he's not just mad, he's downright evil.
After the novel was first published, Lewis Carroll received so many letters asking him for the answer to the riddle (along with hundreds of others that said, "Please stay away from my daughter") that eventually, in the 1896 re-edition, he decided to settle the matter once and for all. According to Carroll, the riddle "as originally invented" had "no answer at all," but he offered the following one anyway: "Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is never put with the wrong end in front."
This answer was ... less than satisfying, and we're pretty sure the second part doesn't even make sense. Since no one liked Carroll's half-assed solution, other writers offered ones of their own: Aldous Huxley wrote, "Because there's a 'B' in 'both,' and because there's an 'N' in 'neither,'" while puzzle genius Sam Loyd offered, "Poe wrote on both."
This sounds pretty cool until you realize he means that Poe wrote on the poem "The Raven," not on an actual raven.
For the longest time, "no answer" seemed like the best answer. But then ...
How They Solved It:
In 1976, over a century after the book was first published, Denis Crutch from the Lewis Carroll Society of North America discovered that the real answer was in a long forgotten typo. Crutch found out that in 1896, Carroll originally wrote: "Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front." Later editions corrected the word "nevar" -- not realizing that Carroll clearly meant to write "raven" backward. As in, "It is raven put with the wrong end in front."
"Hm? Oh, um, yeah, I totally meant that ..."
Yeah, that's not exactly what we were expecting, either, but at least it does sound like something Lewis Carroll would have come up with.
YouTube Commenter Solves Chaplin Time Traveler Mystery
In case your attention span is even shorter than ours, the Charlie Chaplin time traveling clip was one of the biggest non-rainbow related viral videos of 2010 (that wasn't a remix of the Trololo guy). Skip to about 1:35 for the interesting part:
It turns out that in the footage of the 1928 premiere of Chaplin's The Circus (included as a DVD extra in a recent collection), a woman can be seen talking on what appears to be a contemporary mobile phone. The uploader points out that it could also be a man in drag, but either way, the Internet soon decided this person had to be a time traveler.
Genders as we understand them no longer exist in the year 3074.
Obviously not everyone bought it, but no one seemed to be able to provide a satisfying explanation. Radios of this size weren't available until the '50s, and walkie-talkies didn't even exist until the '40s (and even then, they were huge). So what the hell is it? Guess we'll never know for sure ... until someone sends her back to that moment, that is.
How They Solved It:
And then a YouTube commenter had to go ahead and ruin everything for everyone.
And for once, we don't mean with racism and poor grammar.
YouTube user Crennycrenshaw shattered the dreams of millions of sci-fi fans and Charlie Chaplin groupie wannabes simply by replying to the video with the following: "Go to Siemens hearing aid website and then click the link to view their history of hearing aids. The 1924 model has a picture that illustrates how it was held and it explains this mystery." Here's a comparison:
Is that a zebra?
Hell, it could easily be the same guy in the video, a little older and dressed in women's clothes. As for why she's talking to herself -- have you ever seen an old person trying a hearing aid for the first time? They'll spend at least a day getting used to the fact that they can now hear themselves.
Jacopo would like to thank Rob Ager for his extensive research into 2001: A Space Odyssey and asks that you check out some more of his film analyses over at Collative Learning.
For more ways fans have made things better, check out 6 Insane Fan Theories That Actually Make Great Movies Better and 5 Movie Fan Theories That Make More Sense Than the Movie.
And stop by LinkSTORM to because your boss may or may not be in today.
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