We didn’t see this year coming, but we heard it from all sides. In Signal & Noise 2016, you’ll find the way we made sense out of all of that sound.
You either love or hate TV fan theories. On one hand, they can provide insight into a beloved TV show; on the other, they can “ruin” a series in 0.2 seconds flat.
With that in mind, 2016 was a big year for memorable theories, stemming from sites such as Reddit and Tumblr. Among the 15,000 (give or take) theories for Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, and American Horror Story, we somehow managed to select just one for each hit show. Toss in several Nickelodeon and Disney Channel theories, and you’ve got one wacky year for the internet.
Steve with the good hair was theorized to be Parks and Recreation character Jean-Ralphio’s then-teenage father. The theory quickly became “canon” when co-creator Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly, “It’s hilarious and it’s obviously true.” He also added, “I’ll confirm that.”
Someone actually believed that Oscar’s Proud Snax company was a front for drug cartels. Reddit user digikun cleverly asked how the Prouds had money when no one ever bought Proud Snax. This person suggested that the Proud family’s rich but never gainfully employed neighbor, Felix Boulevardez, laundered money through Proud Snax. “Oscar was easily won over by steaks and a big-screen TV,” digikun wrote, “and soon Felix was able to invest in his company.”
In April, @burgerduchess (then going by the handle @lilgrlhj) posited that Freddie Benson was the son of Barry B. Benson and the woman from Bee Movie. The Twitter user claimed Freddie’s mom was so overprotective of her child because “she was reckless in the past and accidentally killed her husband.” Nathan Kress later jokingly confirmed the theory.
Some Reddit users, such as rightslip, believe Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) will be Azor Ahai/The Prince That Was Promised, instead of Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen. BuzzFeed elaborated on rightslip’s theory, noting how Queen Cersei could become the Mad Queen, prompting Jaime to kill her just like he did the Mad King, a.k.a. Aerys II Targaryen.
Technically this theory is from 2011, but MTV News dredged it up and asked Kirk Fogg and Dee Bradley Baker (the voice of Olmec) their thoughts. Both jokingly confirmed Tumblr user Raresteak’s theory as canon.
Basically, Olmec was an evil deity who was chopped up into several pieces by temple guards, and had his disassembled body parts scattered all over the world. They were eventually returned by famous explorers and held in the temple for safekeeping. Olmec met and tricked Fogg into locating all his parts, “seduc[ing] him with evil.” When Fogg failed to succeed, he and Olmec used kids to do their dirty work.
Though this was proven false after the season finale aired, Reddit user TheStrongGeek’s theory was actually much better than what went down on the show, IMO. We know Lee (Adina Porter) murdered her husband, Mason, but TheStrongGeek suggested that their daughter, Flora, actually killed him, though it wasn’t exactly her fault.
Remember when Lee ate the heart of Scáthach and started acting erratically? Who’s to say the same thing didn’t also happen to Flora, since she was constantly in a dazed state? Lee’s taped confession could’ve just been to protect Flora from ever realizing what evil deed she did while under Scáthach’s control.
Our beloved sea sponge was actually a Roman god, according to Reddit user arbidymeindustries. Remember at the end of the episode “Neptune's Spatula” when King Neptune literally zapped SpongeBob into a muscled god? Well, SpongeBob may have lost the killer pecs, but we never saw King Neptune revoke the fry cook’s godliness. This could explain how SpongeBob could animate Bubble Buddy and Frankendoodle on other episodes.
Nickelodeon’s bizarre, unsettling cartoon about an alien reject sent to Earth depicted humans as disgusting creatures and total morons who couldn’t see that an alien was standing right in front of them. According to Reddit user yay855, this was because we were seeing Earth through Zim’s eyes, and he viewed humans as secondary to his alien race. [Note: Nickelodeon and MTV News are both owned by Viacom.]
Mashable writer Andrea Romano concocted a seriously detailed theory that Fuller House was practically The Truman Show, which was about a man (Jim Carrey) who learned his entire life was secretly a television show. According to Romano, “The Tanners are aware of their existence as TV show characters,” and she overanalyzed every single episode for “evidence.” Cut. It. Out.
Redditor Saintdominic believed Stoop Kid was actually a lookout for drug dealers, alerting his bosses if the police were on the move. Stoop Kid’s fear could be due to scary higher-ups who’d hurt him if he left his post. Furthermore, the mysterious Mr. Smith, who rented a room at Arnold’s house, was selling drugs at multiple buildings, including Stoop Kid’s. We never learned Mr. Smith’s agenda, so it’d be no great shock if he were into some sketchy stuff.
File this doozy under “Theories That Probably Emerged After Substance Abuse”: Reddit user SanJoseSharts believed Dora was actually an undercover CIA agent spying on Cuba. Apparently, “the show takes place in the 1960s, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and an undercover operative, code name: ‘D.O.R.A.,’ has been assigned to gather intelligence on Russian nuclear missile stockpiles in Cuba.” OH.
This person noted how all the paths Dora “explored” were already established, suggesting nothing she did involved “uncharted territory.” Her talking map and backpack were results of technology developed during the U.S. space race. Moreover, her monkey friend, Boots, was “a metaphor for the U.S. military, as they are ready to serve as backup support, or ‘boots’ on the ground in Cuba.” And Swiper? He was failed agent S.W.I.P.E.R. who never seemed to get the jump on D.O.R.A.
Check out more from the year in music, culture, politics, and style in Signal & Noise 2016.