|Figments of Cameron's imagination|
A week or two ago I stumbled upon this excellent piece at Cracked.com, titled 6 Insane Fan Theories That Actually Make Great Movies Better.
If you don't have time to go and read that before you press on here (spoilers!), the theories include speculation that James Bond is not a man but a code name, Zion is part of the Matrix, Ferris Bueller's Day Off was all in Cameron's head and Chewbacca and R2-D2 are (always) secret Rebel agents. (There's a follow-up article here, with another 5 theories!)
I've always had some doubts about fan-fic, because it seems awfully derivative and, well, creepy, but there's absolutely no doubt that these articles rock. I mean, these theories take the holes that some of the die-hard fans carp about and turn them into reasons to be enthusiastic all over again.
If you take the time to follow those links, there's depth to the theories that actually do make these stories make sense. I'm in awe of this kind of creativity. And, as is my habit, it made my brain jump off in a different direction.
Don't we all do this, all the time?
We take what the universe has delivered to us, feed it through our ego filters, and reinterpret events to cast ourselves as the heroes.
Okay, let's take a step back. Most of us have been in a service industry of some type, where we encounter customers trying to sell us a version of reality that isn't exactly consistent with the events as they may be recounted by someone else who was there. Some of these people are just trying to take advantage of being the customer, but some genuinely and reflexively cast themselves as the victim in a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week drama starring themselves and titled "My Awful Life". Every inadvertent accident, quirk of manufacturing, and data-input SNAFU is specifically designed to inconvenience these people and cause them to take copious amounts of time out of their otherwise breathlessly exciting lives to bring their woes to the poor bastards whose job it is to deal with their complaints.
All right, I've drawn the extreme, but I'm sure we can all see in ourselves the person who, once in a while, irrationally redesigns reality around their own convenience.
This is what I'm talking about. Sometimes the story as it actually occurred isn't as neat or convenient or satisfying as the one you can nudge into existence by being economical with the truth. Sometimes you actually believe it, other times you know it to be false but, for the sake of a good dinner-party story, it becomes the truth. And let's face it, it makes you seem a bit more fun and witty when you can embroider your stories and get away with it.
Some of this behaviour is harmless, but sometimes there can be victims, particularly if your story paints a business in a bad light and causes people who hear your story to avoid it.
Ultimately, this train of thought leads to the familiar observation that "history is written by the victors". Yes, indeed, it is seductive to set down the version of reality that suits your purpose. The authors are the good guys; their opponents, by definition, have nefarious motivations. It's only in recent decades that we've started to separate WWII-era anti-German and anti-Japanese propaganda from the real people who, themselves, believed their nation was leading a glorious crusade against imperialism or oppression, or some other perceived evil. This is the stuff of classic propaganda theory.
Had the Allies lost those wars, who knows what we would now believe about our countries and families? I can guarantee you it wouldn't be pleasant, and though it would closely resemble the history we now recognise, the motives would be different, casting the outcomes in a more sinister light.
Well, this is what is so clever about the fan theories highlighted by Cracked. They take well-known, established narratives, fill the recognised gaps with unexpected motives, and produce more satisfying story-arcs than existed before. And I love it when creativity is used for good instead of evil.