The BS Movie Rumor Industry's Making The World Stupider
If you Google "Star Wars," as we so often do, you may very well get results like "How Ben Solo Can Be Resurrected After Rise Of Skywalker," "Theory: Palpatine Has BECOME The Dark Side" or "Did This Cut Princess Leia Line Hint At The Epic Girth Of Han's Hog?" Then you get the articles about those articles (or the articles just stealing those articles), creating a recursion that will one day drown us all. "New head-turning Palpatine Star Wars theory is a real doozy" is 1,400 words over-explaining someone else's ramblings, including a detailed precis of who Emperor Palpatine is for the benefit of readers who have never heard of Star Wars and are spending their first day on the internet clicking on whatever they encounter.
The "theory" is about how Palpatine (moronic spoiler alert) came back to life in Rise Of Skywalker, as if there was ever an answer to how he accomplished that beyond "because someone at Disney said he had to." It's not especially interesting to speculate that Shrek Darkboner piled a bunch of space mattresses at the bottom of that Death Star pit, or that Palpatine transformed into a Force ghost using the method detailed on page 47 of the 1983 tabletop RPG that was only released in South Korea after they hastily repurposed a game based on a baseball anime. That's not what anyone involved in making the movie was thinking about, because their only concern was following their directives so that Robert Iger would let them see their families again. Trying to glue a backstory onto a corporate mandate is like wondering whether the provider of your Chicken McNuggets lived a good life.
We love a good fan theory, but this glut of "WHAT IF TATOOINE WAS ACTUALLY DOCTOR WHO IN THE FUTURE PAST" nonsense speaks to a few problems, including the fact that the internet economy is now so broken that some sites can only cling to their shambling lives if they trick enough Facebook users into clinking on 47 links that scream STAR WARS and MARVEL at them every morning. It's the publishing equivalent of blotting out the sun with a Mountain Dew ad, and it produces endless headlines like "Subtle 'Rise Of Skywalker' Moment Confirms 'Star Wars' Fan Theory," which is 1,000 words of explaining a scene from the movie that readers already watched. It's like exploring the veracity of the wild fan theory that James Bond owns a gun. "Rise Of Skywalker' concept art confirms huge theory about Rey's lightsaber: It might even be more complicated than you thought" is only complicated in the sense that the publisher will have to shoot an employee in the head and serve the corpse for lunch if not enough people think "Yes, I do need to learn more about the nuances of the color yellow today."
But the "We need more lore for the sake of having more lore" approach to franchise-building, be it Star Wars' "Three supplementary novels have been written about the adventures and romances of this space coffee maker" or Marvel's "Everything that a character says, sees, and shits will be connected to a future movie, and you should go through our stuff frame by fame for hints" breaks some people's brains. Not letting any single moment in any single movie feature any ambiguity, any standalone quality, or any character who can't be crammed onto a hero's family tree is how we got bombarded with a parade of "We finally know the answer to Inception's puzzling ending" articles in 20 goddamn 18. Yeah, remember that argument? Revisiting it is like stepping into a time warp alongside someone who doesn't understand how movies work.
The pointless movie take engine is also powered by a view of storytelling that considers the laws of a fictional universe to be immutable truths rather than dictated by their creators. "'Rise Of Skywalker' theory: Force healing explains a key prequels moment: This 'new' Force power could clear up some very old questions," aside from being a grammatical disaster, purports to explain away the very mild confusion of "Huh, all this force healing in Rise seems new, that's cool I guess" by positing that, holy shit, Anakin Skywalker was healed at some point between being turned into a charred lump of ground beef in the prequels and going on to live for several more decades.
Lore analysis can be fun, especially if you're the sort of person who browses Wookieepedia to achieve an erection, but having it shotgunned across an unwilling internet is exhausting. We don't need to pretend that an implied moment from a 2005 movie is crucial to making a 2019 movie credible, because storytellers can actually introduce new ideas without needing to cite decades' worth of textual evidence like they're debating the Torah. Stories can even revise ideas, and modern mega-franchises that are written equally by teams of screenwriters and marketing algorithms will happily break their own rules the moment it seems like a good idea.
This idea that a fictional universe's laws are set in stone by a god who will smite you if you stray from His word is also, incidentally, how you get super fans defending dumb and dated concepts. ("No, you see, in Anime Schoolgirl Love Slave, the 16-year-olds have to always wear bikinis. So while their society is sexist, there's nothing unusual about creating and enjoying a work about that society.") And it's how you can keep churning out sweet, sweet content, no matter how long a movie has been out and how little sense it makes.
We got "'Game Of Thrones' theory explains why Arya killed the Night King" seven months after the series finale, as though she could have talked it out with him over a nice brunch. Sites are still picking apart Endgame with articles like "'Avengers: Endgame' theory revealed Iron Man's secret" (nothing, secret or otherwise, is actually revealed) and "Wild 'Endgame' theory suggests Thanos was just a puppet." Although to be fair, the latter makes sense if you ignore literally every single line of dialogue from the movies to enjoy someone's fanfiction instead.
Finally, there is the wild guesswork of theorizing and news breaking, like "Black Widow Leak May've Revealed The Movie's Big Twist" -- the totally credible leak in question being sourced from fucking 4chan and the big plot twist amounting to "Additional comic book characters might be in the movie." The publisher of that article, incidentally, is infamous for just inventing nerd news like it's run by a weeaboo Hearst, because a lie will travel halfway through the social media life cycle while someone is still begging for $25 instead of "exposure" to write the truth. Which is why the story glued to that site's front page right now, "Robert Downey Jr. Says Iron Man Could Still Return In The MCU," is a hard-hitting analysis of a quote wherein Downey might as well have been talking about his pasta salad lunch, for all the relevance it had. But it dominated search results for a bit, and that's what mattered.
This is all obnoxious because it works. Another site's "Captain Marvel 2 Won't Be As Controversial As The First" prompted arguments between fans and detractors, even though the actual "content" of the piece is "Maybe people won't care as much this time because it's not coming out for a while!" But it says "Captain Marvel 2" in the title, and nonsense content based around buzzwords and produced for angry readers who don't actually read it is what makes social media algorithms happy, even as it infuriates actual human beings. It's going to devour the internet, and if there are one to seven things more crazy, insane, and mind-blowing than that, we don't know what they are.
For more, check out The Office Fan Theory That Will Make You Fear Jim:
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