I've been wanting to talk about this for a while, and conversations with amielleon
spurred me to post it now. Now, originally I had the post formatted in a proper fashion, defining my terms and explaining the difference between fandom "theories" and a true scientific theory
, but I'm guessing nobody cares. If you want to go into that sort of detail, please ask.
Anyway, use of Occam's Razor
in fandom (or anyone else, really) amounts to this: the more complicated an explanation is, the more machinations it requires to work, the less likely it is to be true. Doesn't mean it can't
be true; some "elegant" explanations are wrong. But the "elegant" explanation is more likely to be the correct explanation for whatever it is you're trying to explain and/or predict.
As Ammie said here
(locked post), one explanation for Ike's FE10 ending is that he's a selfish character. Well, that's pretty simple and to-the-bone. But accepting that Ike is fundamentally selfish above all else requires ignoring, or bending, a great deal else in Tellius canon. It's a seemingly elegant explanation that requires pretty complicated machinations to work, and is therefore suspect.
Fandom isn't science, so perhaps it makes sense that we've borrowed terms from religious debate for fandom discussions. We invoke "canon" aka "Word of God" to indicate that we get material from a media creator that can't be overturned, but creators can be sloppy
. Creators can change
their mind Creators can give supplemental materials
to explain (or contradict) what's in the text. Things can get altered in translation (see: when Ammie exploded my nice little idea that used the wording of the NoA FE8 script as opposed to the NoA FE7 script to explain the relative ages of the Lord characters).
And then we can always play "Death of the Author" or exploit readings of the text that are likely unintended but nonetheless make sense on some level (ex: Kirby is the true villain of the Kirby
games). That's part of what makes fandom compelling for those of us who are into the meta and fanfiction. But the basic rules of constructing a logical argument shouldn't be ignored, even when it's all in fun. Delightful crack theories are delightful precisely because they make an alarming amount of sense. Delightful theories exploit "gaps" in the canon, or explain things that hang out there unanswered. Ideas that exist completely inside a gap in the canon with nothing to support or contradict them, or that explain things that don't require an answer, don't have quite the same impact on a reader.
Example: Raphi and Sriya were batting around the crack idea that Lyon somehow got transformed into Legault. It's cute, there's not really anything to contradict it, and Raphi even made a 'fic
out of it. It doesn't really shed any light on Elibe canon or Magvel canon, though-- it's a self-contained little bit 'o crack. Whereas the idea that kyusil
proposed regarding Roy and his marriage options (that Roy's various unromantic matchups are in fact a demonstration of his alleged political ability in action) is, to me, a highly compelling one. Do I think that it's necessarily what the scriptwriters intended? No, I think they were likely just being sloppy. But the political angle is to me a very interesting one that a 'fic writer can (and should!) exploit to good use. It offers a new way of examining Roy that takes two things from canon (his diverse marriage options and his stated political skills) and unites them in a way that can be used to shed light upon the characters, their world, or both. And with Roy being the arguable central figure of the entire Elibe saga, something that illuminates his character "matters" a great deal, inasmuch as any meta-fun "matters".
And then there's the deep end of fandom meta. Or the "off the deep end" sector, the kind that constructs amazingly elaborate theories, air-castles of assumptions piled upon tiny projections of canon, just begging to be demolished. Harry Potter fandom was terrible in this regard. Please look up "Archiving the Banana Peels of Imagination" if you want to see some of this in action; I will say for this particular theorist that they seemed to be a very nice and enthusiastic person, but their meta was just... incredible. In the original sense of that word. The problem with a lot of the HP meta crowd, both the cheerfully zany sort and the oddly... malicious... sort, was that they started with one assumption, slapped another upon it, and then another upon that, and finally they had this great towering edifice of headcanon that made sense to them but had little to do with the actual, you know, books. Whether the idea was "Dumbledore didn't really die" or "How Snape will save everything" or "Dumbledore is evil" or "Ron will become a Death Eater," they cherry-picked canon (took what they wanted and ignored the rest) and employed complicated machinations to make everything work. We're talking Rube Goldberg contraptions, if not MC Escher mechanisms.
Well, elaborate contraptions, whether physical constructions or meta constructions, break down easily. These meta writers had made themselves the meta equivalent of the Space Shuttle-- magnificent and fundamentally faulty. And when their meta-shuttles exploded, many of them had the nerve to get pissy with Rowling. If they'd showed respect for basic logic and the principles of argument on the front end, not to mention a bit of respect for canon, they might have come up with sturdy and functional vehicle for their meta instead!
By all means, ignore Occam's Razor in fandom if it's all fun and games. But if you're expecting to convince other theorists, or if you're trying to provide a serious explanation of a problematic text (film, book, videogame, TV script...), or if you're so invested in your pet theory that it makes you upset and angry
to see a rebuttal[*], it's good to keep the basics in mind. The more convoluted your pet explanation is, the less likely you are to convince anyone, and the more likely you are to be entirely wrong.
And we've all gotten things entirely, 110% wrong.
* Not kidding about the HP crowd when it comes to anger and vitriol re: exploding headcanon. Not kidding at all.