Weird Fan Theories

WEIRD FAN THEORY: Serenity edition

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Les Miserables Serenity

Serenity is one big homage to Les Miserables.* It’s not the same story, but there are too many parallel moments to discount. So, let’s count:

1. The Operative is Inspector Javert. Not “kinda like” or “reminds me of”. The parallels here are far too close for that. The Operative is obsessed with the idea of sin, specifically ridding the world of sin. The law is his everything, his identity, and he refuses to question the regime he serves. Big damn hero Malcolm Reynolds (who isn’t Jean Valjean but fills the role in a lot of ways) refuses to kill the Operative when he has the opportunity near the end but instead forces him to consider that he’s wrong. We already know that the Operative fixates on the idea of suicide as penance for sin. He responds to the notion that Mal might see him again with the words, “You won’t. There is nothing left to see.”

2. River Tam is not Cossette, but she fills that function in the narrative here by being a MacGuffin character. A MacGuffin is the all-important thing in a story that the protagonist needs to find, get, hide, deliver, keep away from others that are trying to get it, etc. A character MacGuffin is a character who also serves this purpose for the protagonist. R2D2, for example, is a character MacGuffin. The real MacGuffin in Serenity is the planet Miranda, but River is the key to it and she’s the one everybody’s after. Likewise with Cossette: Go find Cossette, haggle for Cossette, hide Cossette while on the run from the law, keep Cossette away from her old tormentors. Hide River while on the run from the law, keep River away from her old tormentors. I find it interesting that in this movie the place from which they rescue River is a tavern, and that Mal is there to haggle. A bit of a stretch, but it’s neat.

3. Simon and River and Kaylee. This one is another slight stretch because the love between Simon and River is family, not romance. Still, Slumming Rich Boy’s constant attention to Miss MacGuffin prevents him from noticing that Helpful Working Class Girl is pining away for him.

4. The team of idealists forming a barricade to bring down the regime? That takes up space all the way from “I aim to misbehave” through “I’m a leaf on the wind” and down on to Jayne’s last grenade. River is the only thing that saves the crew of Serenity from the same fate as the Paris uprising of 1832. If only Cossette could have done the same.

5. Apparently (from multiple sources) we were going to learn in season two of Firefly that Inara is dying and has been dying for a long time. So that first big confrontation between the Operative and Mal, the one where they argue and threaten one another and it’s all very dramatic… that scene takes place in a dying prostitute’s room. Seriously. There’s no way a parallel that specific was by accident.
Also, compare both opening lines:
“Valjean, at last, we see each other plain. Monsieur le Maire, you’ll wear a different chain.”
“I have to say, Captain, I’m impressed that you would come for her yourself. And that you would make it this far, in that outfit.”

In conclusion, Serenity isn’t the same story as Les Miserables, but if that amount of tribute were paid in gold, both the Browncoats and the ABC would have had enough funding to stand a chance. Thus ends the weird fan theory.


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*I’m going with the musical version because I still haven’t read the novel (I know, I know) and because everybody knows that Joss Whedon likes musicals.


WEIRD FAN THEORY: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory edition

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This theory is a no prize* answer as to why Willy Wonka goes to such outlandish (and arguably murderous) lengths to find a successor to his international chocolate empire.

Recently, I learned that there is a culture of people called the Huanca, who live in Peru. That’s a little bit south of the region where cacao was first cultivated, but not by much, and chocolate was popular in Peru long before the arrival of Europeans in the 1500s. My weird fan theory about Roald Dahl’s classic “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is that Willy Wonka’s surname is an Anglicization of the word Huanca. The reason why it is imperative that the famed chocolatier find the right heir to his company is because it has been a family tradition for centuries, and it is all that he has of that cultural heritage after many generations of living in the U.K. Not having any children himself is therefore a massive deal.

Some readers will recall that Willy Wonka has an elderly father, Dr. Wilbur Wonka, a dentist who forbade his son from eating candy. The young Willy ran away and came back to a home that was literally no longer there. The two are estranged until Charlie reunites them. In my theory, however, it is Wilbur who is the black sheep of the family. Dahl does not say that the young Willy Wonka spent the rest of his growing up on the street or in foster care. It is probable, therefore, that he moved in with other members of his family, all of whom are long gone by the time of the novel. Too much sugar does over time have severe health costs, tooth decay included. Wilbur may have rebelled after losing loved ones, and alienated his surviving loved ones in the process. There is damage on both sides.

This no prize, however, does not explain why Willy Wonka, or Roald Dahl for that matter, had such hatred for seeing children chew gum. Violet Beauregarde does not deserve to be punished for her enthusiasm over something so innocent.


* No Prize: an explanation for why an apparent plot hole or unreasonable character motivation is not a mistake at all. This type of fan theory was popularized by Stan Lee.