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11 Creative Film Interpretations You Probably Hadn't Considered

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Every once in a while, a movie comes along that has tons of people scratching their heads. Memento, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Mulholland Drive ... what was going on there? But according to film theorists, even the movies you thought were totally straightforward may have had a little more to them. From Disney to horror to superhero flicks, here are 11 creative film analyses that will either blow your mind or leave you shaking your head.

1. The Shining is Stanley Kubrick’s confession of staging the moon landing

Theorist: Jay Weidner, who appeared in a 2012 documentary featuring four theories about The Shining called Room 237.

Plot: The Shining is Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel in which a family watches over a hotel for the winter and events go amiss.

The Supporting Evidence: Many people already believe that the moon landing was staged, with help from Kubrick, and that The Shining is Kubrick’s way of expressing guilt and dropping hints regarding his help in the conspiracy. Room 237 is relevant to the plot of The Shining. The room is constantly mentioned and it is the location for one of the most horror-filled events of the movie. The moon is a little over 237,000 miles from the Earth, and Weidner believes that the moon landing was shot on a soundstage numbered 237. What’s more, the little boy in the film, Danny, wears a sweater showing the Apollo 11 rocket (the first craft to land on the moon). He also plays on a carpet patterned with red hexagons that mirror Launch Pad 39A, where Apollo 11 was launched. Theorists don’t see these as coincidences.

2. Ferris is imagined by Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (also known as the “Ferris/Fight Club Theory”)

Theorist: Jeff Roda, among many

Plot: High school senior Ferris Bueller skips school and goes on an adventure, with help from his best friend Cameron.

The Supporting Evidence: This theory involves entertaining the possibility that Cameron never even leaves his bedroom over the course of the film. Roda believes that Ferris was invented by Cameron to cope with both his parents inattentiveness as well as his own insecurities. Ferris seems to be everything that Cameron would want to be (adventurous, assertive, has a girlfriend), so it makes sense that he might be a projection of Cameron’s imagination rather than an actual mischievous friend. Like the romance in Fight Club, this theory makes sense if Cameron has a crush on Sloane, so he develops an alter ego, so he can experience a relationship with her.

3. Aladdin is Set in a Post-Apocalyptic Future

Aladdin Wiki

Theorist: Popular on the Internet

Plot: A poor boy falls in love with a princess and uses wishes from a magical genie to court her.

The Supporting Evidence: Based on the Genie’s comment to Aladdin that his clothes are “so last century,” fans have pieced together that he probably became trapped in the lamp during the third century. The Genie also claims to have been trapped in the lamp for 10,000 years, which means that the film would have to take place in 10,300 AD or later, therefore the film must be set in some post-apocalyptic future time. Language has become muddled, as it so often does in the post-apocalyptic future, so “Arabia” became Aladdin’s home of “Agrabah.” The Genie makes references to modern day figures, such as Jack Nicholson and the Marx brothers, which supports the argument that the film is set in the future rather than the past. People have even looked beyond the film with this theory, noting that an anachronistic stop sign is buried in the sand of the Aladdin video game for Sega Genesis.

4. Doc is Suicidal in Back to the Future

Theorist: People of the Internet, particularly on Reddit

Plot: After accidentally travelling back in time to the 1950s, Marty McFly must figure out how to return to his own era.

The Supporting Evidence: This theory primarily tackles the beginning of the film, wondering if Dr. Emmett Brown (Doc) could be suicidal and planning to use his latest invention to kill both Marty and himself. Rather than testing the DeLorean time machine, as he claims to be doing, perhaps Doc assumed there was no way his new invention could possibly work, so he was prepared to kill himself by setting the car in motion. Before the test, Doc acknowledges that all of his inventions up until this point have not been successful. Considering that, a time machine seems like a pretty elaborate invention. In the scene, Doc sets the DeLorean up so that it is headed straight for himself and Marty, yet is still shocked when it actually works.

5. Fight Club is a Sequel to the Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip

Theorist: Galvin P. Chow

Plot: A bored man creates a more adventurous friend and the two form a violent, rogue fight club.

The Supporting Evidence: The character played by Edward Norton is never given a name, therefore his name could be Calvin. At the end of the film, it is revealed that Tyler Durden is not his own man, but rather part of Norton’s character’s split personality. This twist reveals similarities to the comic strip. Calvin’s stuffed tiger, Hobbes, is completely different from Calvin, with his own unique personality, but is entirely created by Calvin’s imagination. Both Durden and Hobbes stir up mischief so that Norton’s character and Calvin don’t have to feel the blame or consequences of their actions. As Chow writes, “Calvin often blames broken lamps ... on Hobbes, and Jack is inclined to believe that Fight Club and other various anti-society mischief is brought about by Tyler, not himself.”

Those who support this theory believe that Hobbes became a repressed part of Calvin’s imagination, which reemerges as Durden in later years. The fight club created in the film is a grown up version of Hobbes and Calvin’s club G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS), as both are exclusive male-oriented clubs.

6. Toy Story 3 is an Analogy for the Holocaust


Theorist: Jordan Hoffman at

Toy Story 3 is the final installation of Pixar’s Toy Story franchise in which the toys, thanks to their owner’s upcoming departure for college, are donated to a local daycare.

The Supporting Evidence:
There are parallels between moments in The Pianist (about the Holocaust) and moments in Toy Story 3 (including Woody’s speech, “No, we won’t just be abandoned. Surely we can be useful to them somehow. Yes, we’ve lost friends, but surely that can’t happen to us,” which closely echoes a speech given at a train station in The Pianist). There's more: Buzz Lightyear recommends they safely remain in the attic, eerily paralleling the story of Anne Frank. Sunnyside Daycare, where the toys end up, can be seen as a work camp. And towards the end of the film, the protagonists are almost burned alive. Though they manage to escape, the implication is clear that they are the lucky survivors—the exception, not the rule.

Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich says the movie "has absolutely nothing to do with the Holocaust...The Holocaust was never anything that was discussed in the making of [Toy Story 3]." 

7. The Wizard of Oz is about Populism in the United States

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Theorist: Originally a high school teacher in the 1960s named Henry Littlefield

Plot: A Kansas girl named Dorothy gets caught up in a tornado and ends up in a fantasy land from which she must find her way home.

The Supporting Evidence: Like The Shining, The Wizard of Oz is a book adaptation that sparked a lot of politically oriented theories. Many still believe that the film is about Populism, a political movement which supported the common majority versus the elite minority in the 1890s. Dorothy lives on a farm in Kansas with her aunt and uncle, and the state of Kansas historically had a huge amount of support for Populism. Depictions of Dorothy’s farm life are also the black and white portions of the film, which makes sense as Populism was about how the majority was suffering.

Theorists go further than this though, attributing a connection to the Populist movement for each character and location in the film. For example, Dorothy represents the everyday person who struggled in Kansas, which led to the rise of Populism. The Scarecrow would be a farmer, the Tin Man shows industrialism (his lack of heart is a not-so-subtle metaphor), the Cowardly Lion provides a stand-in for Populist presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Gold is measured in ounces, abbreviated "oz," which could correspond to Oz, and the Emerald City might reflect the green of money.

8. Willy Wonka of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory makes candy from children


Theorist: Popular on the Internet

Plot: Candy maker Willy Wonka holds a contest in which five children are allowed to take a tour of his ultrasecret chocolate factory.

The Supporting Evidence: The film makes the point that Willy Wonka is weirdly secretive about his recipe. His factory originally shut down because he couldn’t trust his workers to not be spies for other companies, which is why the Oompa Loompas were brought to work for the factory. Theorists find it strange that the pipe Augustus Gloop flies into is the perfect size for a child to fit. Additionally, in the Nut Room, there is a similar tube, but this one connects to an incinerator. Both tubes seem to be the invention of a Freddy Krueger-type rather than a kindly candy maker. Later in the film, when Wonka's candy literally turns Violet into a blueberry, he has her “juiced,” which is the least subtle hint at cannibalism. Finally, based on the transportation the group uses to get around the factory, it is clear that Wonka knew they would lose members along the way. Though they lose people along the tour, there are never empty seats in future transportation that they use.

9. Drag Me to Hell is About a Girl Suffering from Bulimia

Universal Pictures

Theorist: An IMDb user, as reported on SlashFilm

Plot: A girl gets cursed by a gypsy and her life becomes progressively terror-filled.

The Supporting Evidence: Though this seems like a standard horror film, the events can all be read as eating disorder induced hallucinations. For example, a picture is shown of Christine as a young girl, posed in front of a sign that says “Pig Queen.” She has clearly lost weight since the photo was taken, and way too much weight to have been unintentional. She also claims to be “lactose intolerant,” but is later seen eating ice cream. It is a strange thing to lie about, and even stranger to randomly insert into a horror film, but this would make sense as an excuse for not eating food therefore a reason for hallucinations. Christine is rarely seen eating, whereas the film makes a point to show other characters eating. Many of the horror elements are oriented around food, including a cake that she’s eating, which turns rotten. And, of course, many characters throw up on her throughout the movie.

10. Spider-Man is about Peter Parker hitting puberty


Theorist: Among many, Gaye Birch of “Den of Geek”

Plot: In the 2002 version of Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire plays Peter Parker, who gets bitten by a spider and becomes a superhero.

The Supporting Evidence: Peter Parker gets bitten by the spider as he’s photographing his crush, Mary Jane Watson, which will lead to his eventual transformation. The spider bite is a pretty clear metaphor for what commonly happens during puberty when boys start to discover their sexual interests. Throughout his transformation into a superhero, Parker often stares at himself in the mirror. He continues to be shocked by his body’s changes and new abilities, another symptom of puberty. At one point in the film, his Aunt May comes to the door of Peter’s room and suspiciously asks what he could possibly be doing in there. It isn’t hard to imagine this conversation being about a more R-rated discovery. And as for the sticky white stuff that starts coming out of Peter’s hand ... again, the metaphor isn’t that much of a stretch.

11. Inception is About Movie-Making

Warner Bros.

Theorist: Maria Bustillos and Devin Faraci

Plot: A group must invade someone’s dream in order to plant an idea in his subconscious.

The Supporting Evidence: Star Leonardo DiCaprio may be one of the supporters of this theory, as he compared Inception to Fellini’s 8 ½, which is a movie about making movies. For this theory to make sense, DiCaprio’s character, Cobb, is the artistic director, who must abandon his muse, Mal, in order to create a comprehensive work. Maria Bustillos refers to this as the question of “Who are you doing this for? For your own vision, or for the audience?” Each character fits into a role within the movie-making process as well: Arthur as a producer, Eames as an actor, Yusuf as special effects, and Ariadne as a screenwriter.

These roles make sense within the plot, but also have presence in the film’s imagery. Eames changes the way he looks while looking into a mirror, just as an actor would. And, as Jacopo della Quercia and J.F. Sargent point out, Yusuf is responsible for “the coolest special effects moment in the movie...and the movie specifically points out that he gets no credit for it,” as production design and special effects rarely do in the film world. Some of the movie’s tricks for dreams are pulled straight from movie sets as well, such as the infinite staircase.
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In comments, let me know which theories you’re buying and whether you have more supporting evidence for them!

5 Film Transitions Worth Knowing

You see them every day, on TV shows, the news, and in movies, but how well do you know the most oft-used film transitions? Here are the big five:


The dissolve is an editing technique where one clip seems to fade—or dissolve—into the next. As the first clip is fading out, getting lighter and lighter, the second clip starts fading in, becoming more and more prominent. The process usually happens so subtly and so quickly, the viewer isn't even aware of the transition. The above video offers a great overview of the cut, with examples.


This transition is the opposite of the dissolve in that it draws attention to itself. The best example of the wipe is what's known as the Iris Wipe, which you usually find in silent films, like Buster Keaton's or the Merrie Melodies cartoons—the circle getting smaller and smaller. Other wipe shapes include stars, diamonds, and the old turning clock.

The Star Wars films are chock-full of attention-grabbing wipes. Here are two good examples from The Empire Strikes Back. The first shows the clock wipe; the second, the diagonal wipe (pay no attention to the broken blocks at the start of the second clip—that's a technical glitch, not part of the film).


As the name implies, in the basic cutaway, the filmmaker is moving from the action to something else, and then coming back to the action. Cutaways are used to edit out boring shots (like people driving to their destination—why not see what the character is seeing or even thinking sometimes?) or add action to a sequence by changing the pace of the footage. My favorite use of the cutaway is in Family Guy, where the technique is used to insert throwaway gags. Here's a great example:


The L Cut, also called a split edit, is a very cool technique whose name dates back to the old analog film days.

The audio track on a strip of celluloid film runs along the side, near the sprocket holes. In the L Cut transition, the editor traditionally cut the picture frames out of the strip, but left the narrow audio track intact, thus creating an L-shape out of the film. A different camera angle, or scene was then spliced into the spot where the old picture was, so the audio from the old footage was now cut over the new footage.

Of course, with digital editing, one doesn't need to physically cut anything anymore, but the transition is still widely used, and the name has remained the same.

Split edits like these are especially effective in portraying conversations. Imagine how a simple conversation between two people might look if all we ever got was a ping-pong edit back and forth between the two people talking. The L cut allows the viewer to read the emotion on the listener's face, as the dialogue continues over, as we see in this clip from Ferris Bueller's Day Off:


The fade in and fade out usually signal the beginning or end of a scene, especially if the filmmaker is fading to/from black. This is the most common, of course, but fading to white has become trendy, too. The opening title sequence from the HBO series Six Feet Under featured many fades to black and a couple brief fades to white. The very last bit in the sequence fades slowly to white, and is my all-time favorite example of the transition:

King Features Syndicate
11 Things You Might Not Know About Blondie
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

For close to 90 years, Chic Young’s comic strip Blondie has been a constant in newspapers around the world, reaching an estimated 280 million readers in 55 countries. Despite its title, most readers are probably more familiar with Blondie’s husband, the sandwich-consuming Dagwood. Check out some facts about the comic’s origins, its feature film franchise, and a very unfortunate incident involving a dirty word that rocked Blondie's readership to its core.


An illustration of Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead of 'Blondie' comics fame
IDW/King Features Syndicate

Before Blondie debuted in 1930, cartoonist Chic Young had attempted to create a female-driven strip without a lot of success. Titles like Beautiful Bab and Dumb Dora were some of the more unfortunate ideas, with Young preoccupied by the notion of having a vapid leading lady. For Blondie, Young initially pursued the “dumb blonde” stereotype before dialing down the chauvinism and allowing the single, mingling Blondie Boopadoop to appear at least as intelligent as the succession of boyfriends courting her in the strip. Later, Blondie would become the voice of reason [PDF] to fiance Dagwood Bumstead’s bumbling presence, inverting the gender roles of Young’s previous strips.


For the debut of Blondie, Young’s syndicate, King Features, launched an aggressive mailing campaign in an effort to entice newspaper editors to pick up the strip. Editors first received a letter “announcing” the engagement of Blondie and Dagwood, which was followed by protestations from the Bumstead family and eventually a cardboard suitcase that cautioned them not to peek inside. Naturally, everyone did. Inside was a paper doll cutout of Blondie wearing lingerie, with her “wardrobe” (more paper doll clothing) included.


He might strike you as incapable of tying his own shoes, but there was a time when Dagwood Bumstead carried real potential. Instead of his current working-stiff incarnation, Dagwood was originally heir to his billionaire father’s railroad fortune. But when he married Blondie in 1933, the Bumstead family effectively disowned him, fearing Blondie was only out for his money. The couple’s move to the middle class was Young’s way of acknowledging the fallout of the Great Depression.


With the Bumstead family highly skeptical of Dagwood’s plans to marry Blondie, the would-be groom decided to earn their blessing by going on a hunger strike that played out in real time. For 28 days, Dagwood refused to eat and grew frail until his family finally consented to the marriage. The narrative stunt drew the attention of new readers, raising Blondie’s profile on the comic pages.


A 'Blondie' comic strip with Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead in bed together
King Features Syndicate

For a good portion of the 20th century, it was seen as proper to depict married couples on television or in comics as sleeping in twin beds, eliminating any hint of carnal activities happening off-screen. (Or in this case, off-panel.) But Young thought this was juvenile and insisted that Blondie and Dagwood appear sleeping in the same double bed. Perhaps not coincidentally, the two had their first child, Alexander, in 1934.


While Blondie and Dagwood got along without incident, the same couldn’t be said for another couple featured in the strip’s early years. One of Blondie’s earlier suitors, Hiho, married girlfriend Betty and the two became supporting characters in the strip. Hiho and Betty had what could be considered a tumultuous relationship, with each threatening to punch out the other on a regular basis [PDF]. Young eventually phased the two out, replacing them with far less volatile Bumstead neighbors Herb and Tootsie Woodley.


After the atomic bomb was dropped twice to bring an end to World War II, American citizens understandably grew skittish about the ramifications of wielding such power. To ease their minds, the U.S. military partnered with Young to produce 1949’s Dagwood Splits the Atom, a “fun” booklet that sees the character shrunk down in size to help readers understand atomic power and nuclear fission. Although other comic characters like Popeye appear, it’s Dagwood who has the honors of blowing a neutron into a uranium atom in order to split it.


Although Young’s son Dean had been working on Blondie and was prepared to take over writing duties when his father passed away in 1973, newspapers weren’t so sure. According to Young, more than 600 papers canceled the strip when his father died, fearing it would suffer a drop in quality. Young persevered and eventually won over the naysayers, reclaiming space in the papers and adding several hundred more. (Currently, Young writes the strip and artist John Marshall illustrates.)


In 1938, with Blondie firmly entrenched on the comics pages, King Features and Young agreed to license the strip to Columbia Pictures for a series of live-action feature films. The movies were shot quickly and economically with stars Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake portraying Blondie and Dagwood, respectively. The studio produced 28 features between 1938 and 1950. Attempts to adapt the comic to television were less successful. A 1954 pilot was unaired, while a 1957 series lasted just one season. Another 13-episode iteration was produced in 1968-69, with Bruce Lee appearing as a karate instructor in the last episode.


With their relatively trivial subject matter, comic strips rarely have the potential to offend. A 2004 Blondie entry proved to be an exception. In the strip, a character uses the word “scumbag” to describe a baseball umpire. Readers wrote in to Dean Young to lodge complaints, with Mr. Young and his proofreaders apparently unaware that “scumbag” is a euphemism for a used prophylactic.


A 2005 'Blondie' comic strip featuring a number of other comic characters
King Features Syndicate

Before shared universes were a thing, Blondie’s 75th anniversary strip published September 4, 2005 had a cameo from virtually every notable comic strip character past and present. As Dagwood and Blondie hold up a cake—shaped like a sandwich, naturally—they’re surrounded by Ziggy, Garfield, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, Dilbert, and dozens of others. In the weeks leading up to the strip, the comics pages were full of Blondie references and sight gags.


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