Cameron was hallucinating Team Rocket with Hobbes the whole time
July 28, 2010 9:36 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for interesting essays about works of fiction that reinterpret them in ways that make them more interesting. The Ferris Beuller/Fight Club theory, Ash is in a coma for all of Pokemon essay and the famous Fight Club/Calvin and Hobbes essay. What are more of these? Is there a name for this kind of essay/theory?
posted by NoraReed to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

There are similar "kid was in a coma the whole time" rumors for Captain Tsubasa and Doraemon.
posted by clearlydemon at 10:07 PM on July 28, 2010

Go to tvtropes, find any work of fiction, and click on the WMG button on top. It stands for Wild Mass Guessing, but some of them are pretty serious.
posted by wayland at 10:12 PM on July 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

Data doesn't exist. He's the collective manifestation of the Enterprise crew's rational side. Notice how many scenes involve a crewmember alone with Data, talking things out.

Also, Data was actually a rather prescient vision of humanity's (near) future. Remember how much "comic relief" was derived from Data being overly-precise and verbose with facts? Like, they'd ask him what planets were in the current star system, and he'd enumerate the planets, the histories of all the cultures on each of those planets, what breakfast cereals are popular in each region, until one of the crewmembers would become exasperated and say, "Enough, Data!" Well, Data is that guy in your group of friends who whips out his iPhone and consults Wikipedia at the first hint of conversational ambiguity. We've all been That Guy from time to time.

That's right. It's the 21st century, and we're all Data now.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:48 PM on July 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

Is there a name for this kind of essay/theory?

posted by lekvar at 11:00 PM on July 28, 2010

Best answer: Chewbacca and R2D2.
posted by rhizome at 1:43 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Someone posted this on reddit about The Big Lebowski. I would credit the author but I can't find the original quote.
I like the Big Lebowski because like most Super Coen Bros movies there are layers of meaning throughout the story and character development. For example, a somewhat crazy but defensible theory of mine:
In Thus Spake Zarathustra, the protagonist describes the three metamorphoses of the human spirit as a metaphor for Nietzsche’s views on religion, free will, and being awesome. The camel is the first part, the part that bears the burden of life resolutely and valiantly, but who suffers for it (and doesn’t see it as suffering). This is Christianity and the burden of original sin. The second part is the lion, whose big thing is rejecting what’s imposed upon him; unlike the camel, the lion looks at the imposition of christianity and says “no!” This is Modernity and the death of god. The third part is the child, who ask questions, creates, and does whatever it wants. This is the postmodern superman/overman.

In The Big Lebowski, The Dude is the camel, Walter is the lion, and Donny is the child: The Dude tolerates (abiding) pretty much all kinds of insults and injuries, all the while solemnly accepting his lot in life and having a sense of humor about it; he doesn’t pursue anything beyond the simple pleasures of bowling, and isn’t even interested in keeping the money from the Bunny deal (all he wants is the rug).
Walter is just a prick to everyone, and wants to do things his way. He refuses to accept the world around him, which is why he aggressively opposes even one frame in a bowling match. On top of that, he’s not much of a thinker. His plans are poorly thought out, and his reasoning for everything has something to do with war.

Donny is actually described as child-like by Walter, and spends almost the entire movie asking questions. He is also one of the few genuinely happy characters in the movie. Finally, Jesus has a moment where he creepily looks at Donny and Donny freezes, and we know that Jesus is a pederast.

Now all this may be bullshit, but I’d like to point out that Ethan Coen has an academic background in philosophy. And the fact that this movie could inspire me to find parallels between Nietzsche and the films characters is pretty impressive in my opinion.
posted by laptolain at 1:44 AM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

Arguably you could take into account any literary essay that looks at C18 and C19 literature in a feminist, Queer or post-colonialist way (or any relatively new, radical theory). A really good example is Gilbert and Gubar's essay on C Bronte's Jane Eyre in The Madwoman in the Attic which showed how much, either deliberately or subconsciously, Bronte wrote the madwoman as a distorted mirror version of Jane, rather than her opposite. This interpretation completely changed how critics saw the book and opened it up to many new, fruitful interpretations.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 1:58 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Theory: Drag Me To Hell is really about a girl with an eating disorder.

"Drag Me To Hell isn’t actually a horror movie, but instead a story of a farm girl with an eating disorder, who starves herself to fit a certain image and begins hallucinating and going crazy."
posted by sharkfu at 2:41 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Not available to read online as far as I can find, but this new anthology about Anne of Green Gables consists of many modern interpretations/readings of the characters and the story. Notably, chapter 4, "'Too Heedless and Impulsive': Re-Reading Anne of Green Gables through a Clinical Approach" by Helen Hoy, reads Anne as if she had fetal alcohol syndrome. Story, vaguely outraged comments.
posted by 1UP at 4:45 AM on July 29, 2010

Not an essay but "Wicked" is the Wizard of Oz from the Wicked Witch of the West's point of view. Dorothy was not a nice person.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:03 AM on July 29, 2010

It's not an essay, but I think you would enjoy The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, in which a raving Slavoj Zizek warps your understanding of several dozen of your favourite movies forever.

Tom McCarthy's Tintin and the Secret of Literature would also seem to fit the bill.
posted by oulipian at 7:57 AM on July 29, 2010

There is a theory stating that the entire Super Mario Bros pantheon has been one long hallucination following from that first mushroom Mario ever ate. Since he keeps eating mushrooms, he can never escape.

Also, see Tommy Westphall's mind.
posted by leapfrog at 8:00 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Re: Calvin and Hobbes. Get a few of Watterson's annotated texts on his strip. He has a much more sophisticated commentary on his characters than the essays posted in your introductory paragraph.

Many times critics slap a layer of navel gazing baloney over the original works that don't enhance the reading but diminish the work.
posted by effluvia at 8:31 AM on July 29, 2010

James Thurber wrote The Macbeth Murder Mystery about a woman who reads William Shakespeare's Macbeth as if it were a whodunit.
posted by jonp72 at 8:55 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's also the films of Mark Rappaport. He directed Rock Hudson's Home Movies, an "essay film" based on the idea that Rock Hudson left little clues about his homosexuality in his films. In addition, he directed From the Journals of Jean Seberg, which uses the "essay film" format to talk about hidden political meanings in the films of Jean Seberg.
posted by jonp72 at 9:02 AM on July 29, 2010

Wide Sargasso Sea is a novel that makes the madwoman in Jane Eyre the main character (noted above) and sees the story from her side.

Also, not quite what you're asking for, but John Sutherland has a series of books where he looks at classic fiction and puzzles out some of the unexplained bits of novels that the author never picks up on (Who betrays Elizabeth Bennet? Is Heathcliff a murderer?, eg.)
posted by pised at 9:16 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

This could be termed a "retcon" for "Retroactive Continuity": the reinterpretation of already known facts to create a new reality.

There's a great retcon on Star Wars IV and here's one that makes sense of the Terminator movies.
posted by musofire at 9:33 AM on July 29, 2010

At the end of Back to the Future, Doc takes Marty and (Claudia Wells) Jennifer on a trip that we never see, a trip to the past. Doc is being truthful but intentionally misleading when he says "it's your kids, Marty, something's got to be done about your kids." Doc's goal is to prevent those kids from ever being born, and to do so he's got to stop Marty and Jennifer from ever meeting. This explains his answering Marty's "where?" with "back to [change] the future." When Marty asks "do we become assholes or something?" Doc immediately says "no" because in the future he knows, it's the truth.

When Back to the Future Part II begins, we're looking at the alternate 1985 created by that change. Marty is now dating (Elisabeth Shue) Jennifer, a moodier, high-maintenance replacement of the original. This Marty shows visible signs of aging from the stress of the relationship. The Doc that appears this time is the Doc from this future, and he's on a different mission from his counterpart at the end of the first movie. That other mission, as it turns out, was a relative failure. Whatever problems it solved were replaced by new ones; this Marty and Jennifer do in fact become assholes (hence Doc's hesitation in answering the question this time around).

Compare the two scenes here.

Because the first Doc changed the events leading up to Back to the Future, we must presume that they still happened more or less the same way. Except Marty had a different girlfriend the whole time. What ultimately happened to the Marty, Jennifer, and Doc from the original timeline is unknown; they don't seem to exist anymore. There's a story begging to be written about (young-looking) Marty and (Claudia Wells) Jennifer trapped in a forgotten timeline, fighting a meddlesome, power-mad Doc who's determined to erase them from existence.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:22 AM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]

Also from TV Tropes, see the Alternative Character Interpretation entries. Although those tend to be somewhat subtler and deal primarily with the psychological states of the characters.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:56 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: MetaFilter's own zompist has a neat interpretation of Asimov's Foundation trilogy that assumes that psychohistory was actually a sham.
posted by serathen at 11:19 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Coyote v ACME
posted by MsMolly at 11:35 AM on July 29, 2010

Pierre Bayard's books, Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles and Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?, are witty, literate deconstructions and reconstructions of Conan Doyle's and Christie's respective works.
posted by mayhap at 11:40 AM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: These are great-- I'll mark more when I have time to check out all of 'em. I'm not looking for fiction told from alternate POVs, though (Wicked, R&G are Dead, etc) just re-interpretative essays.
posted by NoraReed at 12:46 PM on July 29, 2010

I have long held that it is quite possible within the context of Star Trek (TOS), the episode Shore Leave was the last "real" episode, and everything after that is the product of Kirk's imagination and the planet's manufacturing. He's still stuck there on the Shore Leave planet, living adventures of his own subconscious design for the rest of the series.

Of course, ST:TNG came along and invalidated this theory, so now it only works if you ignore the later Star Trek series.
posted by fings at 1:54 PM on July 29, 2010

Is there a name for this kind of essay/theory?

posted by talldean at 8:35 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like this take on O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which argues that the protagonists all die in the flood at the end.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 10:49 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Somewhat related, The Gospel of Judas.
posted by benzenedream at 11:41 PM on July 29, 2010

Not sure if this fits the bill, but I have heard the theory that Superman is a story on the American Dream as seen through the eyes of an immigrant, and that Spider-Man is a tale of puberty (as are many werewolf stories).

Also, Bridget Jones' Diary is often thought of as a book about a fat woman - not only is she neurotic, rather than fat, it's also a retelling of Pride and Prejudice.
posted by mippy at 4:18 AM on July 30, 2010

Theory: Drag Me To Hell is really about a girl with an eating disorder.

"Drag Me To Hell isn’t actually a horror movie, but instead a story of a farm girl with an eating disorder, who starves herself to fit a certain image and begins hallucinating and going crazy."

This is great. After I saw that movie, I joked that the original working title was Gross Things In My Mouth. There are at least a half dozen times in that movie when disgusting things end up in the main character's mouth.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:43 PM on October 12, 2010

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