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How fan theories gave Avatar a second life online

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But that’s the necessary risk with fan theories: You can’t make everyone’s favorite theory canon.

For as long as fictional stories have existed, fan theories have been the backbone of how we interact with those stories.

The emergence of theories, whether it be in book clubs, forums, or simply in someone’s own head, can greatly enhance the viewing experience. Coming up with your own ideas for how a story will end or what one moment really meant can add a sense of participation and creativity. But while these theories help build anticipation, they can just as easily create unrest and disappointment if the actual story isn’t as good as the theory — or if it’s just too different.

In the Star Wars community, fan theories are the lifeblood. During the entire run of the sequel trilogy, fans speculated over the true identity of “Rey. Just Rey.” So when fans finally learned that Rey was a Palpatine, it didn’t sit well with everyone, and a fan community prone to toxic behavior once again . But that’s the necessary risk with fan theories: You can’t make everyone’s favorite theory canon.

But despite the pitfalls, many fans argue that these theories are a force for good.

“Any amount of fan engagement is great for the community and keeping the franchise alive,” Reddit user and fan theorist u/Neilader tells Inverse.

Fan theories keep stories relevant, even millennia after its creation — just ask the speculation around the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus in The Iliad. Or browse Reddit’s Fan Theories page and you’ll find discussions on , , and everything in between. Fan theories don’t discriminate: there is no theory too wild, no fandom too niche. As long as there’s compelling evidence, someone’s willing to make it their headcanon. But of all these fandoms, it’s tough to find one as open-minded, long-lasting, and creative as the Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom.

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