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Throwaway references in fiction are often going to be important later, or sops to verisimilitude. But some references are thrown in for fun, to reference what the fans are thinking or wondering about, Fan Nicknames, and other aspects that come from the culture that has surrounded the work.
The more accessible the fanbase, the more widespread this trope, so Web Comics are especially prone. Sometimes, the nod canonizes an idea that came from the fanbase originally, or works an Ascended Meme into the dialogue.
- In Death Note's penultimate volumes for both arcs, the interstitial factoids, reserving the remaining important details for the final stretch, addressed such vital questions as whether Death Notes could have non-black covers and whether shinigami could have sex. (Yes and NO!, respectively.)
- One of the most commonly asked questions in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha was answered in the manga. Who would win between Nanoha and Hayate? (Answer: Nanoha. With ease. Apparently, Hayate's a Squishy Wizard. Highly destructive amounts of power, but long casting time, and swiss cheese defense that anyone training under Nanoha could beat. Yes, this includes Caro. Without her dragons.)
- The manga ending of Gash Bell included both movie mamodo in some shots, making them canon.
- Eichiro Oda, who writes One Piece, publishes a list of fans' questions in each volume about minutiae to do with the series. While his answers do occasionally reveal some deliberate attention to detail (which may affect the plot later on), many of his replies appear to be made up on the spot.
- And similarly, Eyeshield 21 often answers rather mundane questions about the characters (like what they eat for breakfast, how much they study, how often a certain character doesn't wear pants...) in a similar question-corner.
- This seems to be fairly common in manga, as D.Gray-man does it too, except the characters often end up answering the questions. This can sometimes turn out ugly, such as the couple times Allen and Kanda got stuck together for the job...
- A much speculated Key Visual Arts question was answered in an episode of the Clannad After Story anime. What will happen if Sanae's bread and Akiko's Jam were used together? As Nagisa innocently said: "It's the ultimate combination!"
- Knocked out members of Kazuto Miyazawa's gang is what we get.
- The ancient rivalry between Arcueid and Gilgamesh among Nasuverse fans got a major fandom nod in the crossover game Battle Moon Wars when Gil snubs Arcueid as being unworthy of his notice at the tail end of Act 3 (Super route), only to get utterly creamed by her late in Act 4 (with some help from Saber and Avalon).
- At the end of a scene in Evangelion 1.0, where Misato and Ritsko ride a chair lift down a shaft, Misato remarks, "My butt is freezing!" This would be funniest among fans who had been affectionately referring to the short shorts she wears as part of her uniform as her 'butt-freezers'.
- The KonoSetsu fandom in Mahou Sensei Negima is so large, they were actually referred to by name in one of the Drama CDs of Negima!?
- The creators of Durarara acknowledged a popular ship in one episode when Erika Squees about how Shizuo and Izaya must be in love. The other characters' disgusted reactions to the idea is absolutely hilarious (Shinra also thinks Shizuo/Izaya is possible, but Celty shuts him up before he can say anything else).
- It appears that Kishimoto acknowledged the fan theory that Kushina was the nine-tailed fox in chapter 498. When Naruto finds his mother while trying to gain control of the nine-tailed fox, he accuses her of being the kyuubi's true form. This earns him a punch from her.
- Not to mention all the fanart depicting the Ninetails as a red-haired woman.
- Tiger and Bunny has a recurrent gag in the "On the Next..." segments where either Kotetsu or Barnaby will disclose entirely inconsequential bits of trivia about themselves. Kotetsu eats the ice in his drinks and brushes his teeth in the bath! Barnaby has a normal body temperature of 35.7 Celsius and drinks milk before going to bed!
- In Persona 4: The Animation, what was once a throwaway line in the game about cabbage became Adachi's signature item thanks to the fandom. And that became immortalized in the animated adaptation.
- After being returned to Green Lantern status after the Sinestro Corps War storyline, many comic fans believed for various reasons that Kyle Rayner would become a Blue Lantern, at least temporarily. When he inevitably didn't (and the offer for leadership of the Blue Lanterns was extended to Hal Jordan instead), there was a minor internet backlash from parts of the fandom. When Blackest Night rolled around, there was a brief line wherein Guy Gardner mockingly suggested Kyle exchange his green ring for a blue one.
- Also in Blackest Night, there was speculation leading all the way up to the event that there would be White Lantern that would be the one to defeat the Black Lantern Corps. As the event grew closer and every new storyline involved Hal Jordan at one point or another putting on or being consumed by different rings, it became obvious it was meant to be him. While Hal Jordan did eventually merge with the White Entity, Sinestro did it first, making it look like he was going to be White Lantern. While this might've been pre-planned, there's no denying Sinestro being on the cover of one of the Green Lantern issues, as the White Lantern, and saying directly to the camera "You were expecting someone else?" wasn't intended to poke fun at the fan assumption Hal was going to be the White Lantern.
- In War of the Green Lanterns, Kyle finally puts on a blue ring, and Ganthet takes a moment to tell Kyle what a bad idea that was. (He's not too happy with John, Hal, or Guy's choices either.)
- The text pages in the Knights of the Old Republic comics, in issues 13-24, were mostly this. And they did venture into Continuity Porn territory at times. John Jackson Miller apparently referenced the obscurest things he found on Wookieepedia.
- Marvel Comics' Captain America: Who Won't Wield The Shield? had Fubrush man quoting several common fan complaints right in the face of Marvel's writers and editor Steve Wacker. And is potrayed as both completely out of his mind and right at the same time.
- Harry Potter gave some aside time to stress the pronunciation of Hermione's name, and might well have thrown a slight wrench into an inheritance issue solely to clear up the birth order of three of the characters (though the way it did so strongly suggests that J. K. Rowling Did Not Do The Math).
- The chapter in Deathly Hallows where Harry strongly and repeatedly stresses to Ron the fact that he sees Hermione as a friend and a sister figure, nothing more, seems to have been an Anvilicious nod to the Harmonians (Harry/Hermione shippers), who got EXTRAORDINARILY upset when Ron and Hermione hooked up instead.
- Also, the Muggle erotica in Sirius Black's bedroom in book 7. Despite his "special friendship" with James (and possibly Lupin), Rowling assures us that Sirius was a red-blooded manly man who loved boobies. (Or the third option.)
- Aberforth Dumbledore's Patronus is, in fact, a goat. Given that he was once prosecuted for "using inappropriate charms on a goat", this may have been a nod to the fandom theory that he liked goats. I mean, he really, really liked goats.
- In the penultimate book of the series, a major character dies. At once, a number of fans tried to come up with excuses for how he could've survived. In the final book, Mad-Eye Moody is killed under similar circumstances, and Ron attempts to find reasons he might still be alive, using many of the same arguments. Naturally, these are all shot down.
- In a nod to some of the bizarre or nonsensical shippings that float around about Harry Potter, one book had a scene where Harry and Hermione discuss if the Hogwarts caretaker and the librarian were secretly a couple.
- Little Women: When Laurie begs Jo to marry him in Part Second, he desperately insists, "Don't disappoint us! Everyone expects it!" No doubt whom "everyone" refers to... Too bad Alcott was determined to sink that ship mercilessly. Sorry, Laurie.
- Timothy Zahn's Star Wars Expanded Universe novel, Allegiance, had a cameo appearance by someone who fit the description of Pink 5, a pink-wearing Han Solo-obsessed character from a popular series of fan films.
- Another nod is from the X Wing Series comics. Stackpole referenced an alt_fan_wedge meme, "Vote Wedge/Tycho for President" by suggesting Wedge run for just that.
- A fan group that specializes in stormtrooper armor is called the 501st Legion. In Revenge of the Sith, the 501st is the group that raids the Jedi Temple with Anakin, and they get a campaign in Battlefront II.
- In canon, they're the troopers that answer directly to Vader. Presumably, they're the ones that can shoot.
- The Novelisation of Star Trek the Motion Picture contains a nod to the Kirk/Spock shippers - apparently there are rumours about the relationship even in their universe. Kirk's response to these rumours (in a footnote, since the book is presented as an in-universe dramatization of actual events) is that, while he has no moral objections to "physical love" in any form, he himself prefers women. (K/S shippers are quick to point out that Kirk doesn't say he is only interested in women.)
- The Brandon Sanderson Wheel of Time novels have several nods to fan theories. One that sticks in this troper's mind was Verin. Several popular theories were that she had her Oaths removed, or that she was so ancient, that she was raised before the Oath Rod was in use, or that she was, in fact, Black Ajah. All three were brought up in the conversation. You know the one I'm talking about.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The Sound of Drums", Martha wonders if the Master is the Doctor's "secret brother". His reply? "You've been watching too much TV."
- In "Planet Of The Ood", the Doctor notes that the Oodsphere is in the same system as Sensphere, homeworld of the Sensorites. The fandom came up with that theory a few years earlier, due to the aliens looking somewhat similar.
- The episode "The Sontaran Stratagem" acknowledges fan confusion over how to pronounce the aliens' names (Sontaran, not Sontaran) by having Donna get it wrong and the Doctor correct her.
- Later, in the two parter "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead", one plot point involved the Doctor meeting someone he hadn't met yet, but she had met numerous times. She had a diary of her life which apparently details huge amounts of the Doctor's personal future as well. As a nod to the fandom (as the producers have campaigned hard against them) the information in the diary is consistently referred to as "spoilers" by the Doctor and others.
- When the Eleventh Doctor shows up in The Sarah Jane Adventures, Clyde (having already met him as the Tenth Doctor) asks him two hotly-debated questions..
Can you change colour or are you always white?
No, I can be anything.
And is there a limit, I mean, how many times can you change?
Five-hundred and seven.
- In the Lost episode "Eggtown," Jack mentions that the Oceanic Six started out as eight survivors, but some died before they were rescued. The producers repeatedly stated that the identities of the dead were unimportant, because Jack was lying anyway. However, fans continued to speculate, so the season finale expanded the cover story to reveal their identities. They were Boone, Libby and Charlie by the way.
- Sylar's now infamous comment on how brain-eating is "disgusting" in Heroes was a Fandom Nod to the prevailing theory that Sylar stole his victims' brains to eat them to gain their powers. Turns out he just studies them, although writers originally planned for him to eat them.
- In the House episode "Unfaithful", House refers to Foreman and Thirteen by their Fandom Nickname "Foreteen".
- Forever Knight gave a nod to fandom by naming a couple of murder victims after some of the more noteworthy fanfic authors.
- Supernatural: "The Monster at the End of This Book" has a series of books that eerily resemble our Heroes' exploits, named "Supernatural". About five minutes into the episode, Sam happens upon the fansites, specifically Wincest. When he explains what it is to Dean, the older brother looks perturbed and goes "They know we're brothers right?" Also in the episode is a fan declaring "It's best when they cry."
- In fact, the episode strains the fourth wall throughout the episode, with shout outs to specific fans, friendly ribbing of viewers ("for fans, they sure do complain a lot" "hey look, there are Sam-girls and Dean-girls!"), even the writers themselves (after realizing they've lived "the bugs" and "the ghost ship", the stricken writer cries, "Horror is one thing, but to be forced to live bad writing!").
- The episode also throws a shout out to the Periphery Demographic that the series picked up (i.e. women who watch for the attractive stars). The cover of the books have bodice-ripper style artwork depicting a very buff Dean and Sam, one in a very tight shirt and the other shirtless.
- Castiel molotoving Michael with a bottle of Holy Oil in "Swan Song" may have been a nod to the question the fandom has been asking ever since Holy Oil was first introduced: Why don't they just set angels on fire with it?
- The first ten minutes of Power Rangers RPM episode Ranger Blue addresses a bunch of common fan questions, fielded by the Rangers themselves to a confused Doctor K. These including the likes of "Is it completely necessary for us to scream "RPM, Get in Gear!" when we morph, and why does the ground explode behind us when we do?" Also, Dr. K gets very, very angry if you call the suits spandex.
- Lois and Clark finally got married on the show, after a long series of fakeouts. Just when their "Heavenly Helper" is about to begin the ceremony, Clark stops him to say that they have to let everyone know that this is not a clone or a dream or something else, or there's going to be a riot! Also, bonus points for the episode title: "Swear to God, This Time We're Not Kidding".
- In a Season 10 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel returns to the Satellite briefly and spends some time with Mike and the Bots. After learning how well Joel's life has gone since he escaped, Mike fumes "What's he got that I don't?!" Tom and Crow urge him not to make such comparisons, saying "it ain't healthy", a nod to the fan debate of who was the better host which raged on the early days of the Internet.
- ICarly and the episode "iStart A Fan War". The first preview trailer used the Portmanteau Couple Name of the two major pairings. The episode itself included in-universe representations of those 2 major pairings. However.. the portrayal wasn't especially accurate or flattering to said fandom, and caused a firestorm of criticism.
- Word of God Dan Schneider dropped an Anti-Shipping anvil at the end of the episode, basically mocking the fans who made his show popular online, and then following it up with Carly mouthing something that could have come from one of his blog posts, which basically boils down to 'shut up about romance and watch the show for the comedy'.
- In Sherlock, this nod to the Slash Fic community:
John: Well, I'm glad no one saw that... You, ripping my clothes off in a darkened swimming pool. People might talk.
Sherlock: People do little else.
- Even better, in "A Scandal in Belgravia", after having his sexuality questioned yet again, John explodes with "Who the hell knows about Sherlock Holmes but for the record, if anyone out there still cares, I'm not actually gay."
- "The Hounds of Baskerville" is basically addressing everything amongst the fandom.
- The Kamen Rider OOO net movies (released with the Milestone Celebration movie) poke fun at Kamen Rider Decade's Merchandise-Driven and often-mocked Final Form Ride power by having him use it to cheat at cards, prompting Kivat to remark "I guess there's no need to be subtle when you turn strangers into crazy shapes and toss them around."
- In Fringe, a large portion of the plot is driven by the existence of two parallel universes. Characters present in both universes generally have the same name, which necessitates a Fan Nickname to easily distinguish them. These nicknames sometimes make it into the show, such as when Walter referred to his alternate self as "Walternate", and the alternate Olivia as "Fauxlivia".
- In Bionicle, another character asks Orde why he isn't female like the other Toa of Psionics- a question that most fans had been demanding an answer to for the past few months. However, the answer caused even more debate and controversy in the fandom, leading Greg Farshtey to imply that he would not address gender issues in the story again.
- In Team Fortress 2, the Scout has an audio clip which references the fact that many forum dwellers noticed his resemblance to ShamWow! commercial pitchman Vince Offer.
Scout: "Look at this! Just caved in yer skull, my bat's still dry. No clumps of hair, nothing!"
Scout: "You see that? You seein' this? No other class's gonna do that."
Scout: "If ya order now, I'll throw in a second beatin', absolutely free!"
- the Kingdom Hearts translators can have fun with this. In the Organization journals in 358/2, Demyx refers to Xigbar as "Xiggy" (A common Fandom name for him) and one Birth By Sleep enemy description makes fun of the overuse of belts.
- In the Dynasty Warriors online game any character can use any weapon, and all weapons have a description. The flute descriptions, Zhen Ji's preferred weapon is the flute, will throw out jokes about how completely over the top weapon designs are. This is not just targeted on the games own fandom, but rather anybody who thinks that weapons or items in media can be odd, and sometimes just miss the point. Dynasty Warriors is still a clear target for this, though.
- "A flute specifically designed for battle. Can also be used to play music.
- "An iron flute with dazzling ornamentation. Also useful as an instrument."
- Dragon Age had a DLC called The Darkspawn Chronicles, which named the party's dog Barkspawn after the name Penny Arcade gave it. The Expansion Pack, Awakening, included a mage staff called Lamppost in Winter, after a memetic Double Entendre from the original game. ("Have you ever licked a lamppost in winter?")
- At one point in Calamity Trigger Reconstruction, Bang wards off his own men by warning them not to fight Jin - the reason being that they're no match for his Ice Car spam.
- The Order of the Stick does this constantly - as soon as an apparent plot hole occurs to the forums, the next comic is very likely to head it off in a humorous manner.
- A great case was the great speculation that Miko was going to be resurrected as a Death Knight. Sure enough, the crazy necromancer was considering doing just that until she realized that Miko's body was cut in half and would be too much of a hassle to reanimate.
- Another was when an arrow dipped in an incredibly lethal poison was shot off in a random direction, and the fandom went wild with speculation as to which important character it would hit and kill. The very next comic showed the path of the arrow as it ricocheted around the battlefield, narrowly missing Roy and then Miko, before zooming squarely at Vaarsuvius... and being deflected by the protection from arrows spell s/he cast about 14 comics ago.
- The 600th comic was a slight Take That at the people who were expecting significant events every hundred comics.
- Dominic Deegan had one with Jacob's golem. When given suggestions for names, he rejected "Patches" - a Fan Nickname that had cropped up in the forum. He settled on Quilt.
- Sluggy Freelance does this a few times, sometimes in-continuity and sometimes in non-canon gag strips (e.g. "Bun-bun vs Hannibal Lecter").
- After enormous fan pressure to bring Oasis back, a non-canon strip depicted Torg wheeling in a charred corpse and exclaiming "Look who's back!", to drive home the point that 'Oasis is dead, dead, DEAD, and isn't coming back EVER.' ...of course, it didn't stick...
- For the most part Pete tries to remain blind to fan speculation, though he can't always stay deaf to it. Fandom nods have been non-canon, including the above Oasis example.
- This Webcomic/Starslip strip was posted shortly after someone commented on the forum that the monster from Cloverfield looked like a Cirbozoid.
- In the Homestuck flash [S Ride], there is a bonus you can reach by clicking the horseshow at the bottom right-hand corner. This gives a short, silly flash with a couple of random, scratchily-drawn pictures of Roxy as a cowgirl. The last is a picture of Roxy and Jane kissing, with pink and blue cotton candy on the floor and a piece of paper reading 'Cotton Candy'. That is the Fan Nickname for the Roxy/Jane ship.
- An issue of Eight Bit Theater put to rest the fan theory that Black Belt was going to be brought back to life. The theory: resurrect a discarded copy of the character who had been turned to stone by a spell. The resolution: Ludicrous Gibs in the form of the top of the character's head having eroded off due to being submerged in a lake. Resolved again in a second (joke) strip when Black Mage gathers up the pieces of the original Black Belt and casts LYFE. The result is a borderline Eldritch Abomination proclaiming that each second is nothing more than a thousand agonies before it is put out of it's misery.
- The episode "The Ember Island Players" in Avatar: The Last Airbender had several, such as Sokka noting the vagueness of Jet's death.
- Of special mention is the show's acknowledgment of Zutara, which makes Aang sad and makes the characters in question scoot away from each other.
- The mini-comic "Private Fire" (which is itself made partially by a Promoted Fanboy) has a nod to the Memetic Badass nature of Sokka's alias Wang Fire. Sokka uses the name when going into the Fire Nation military to gather information. In the end, they fake him dying while taking out an earthbender and waterbender, leading his commanding officer to make him a memorial.
- In the Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, one of Katara's granddaughters channels the fans and asks what happened to Zuko's mom (a plot thread left hanging in the original series). Katara starts to explain when her other granddaughter interrupts and cuts her off.
- Teen Titans: The people Control Freak chats with online about the Titans and Titans East in the episode "For Real" as well as the Shipping that
plaguedfrequented the Titans fandom.
Random Fan: Robin and Starfire 4ever!
Know-it-all Fan: Starfire should be with Beast Boy.
- Amusingly, they avoid mention of Raven, who's by far the most controversial character when it comes to shipping.
- In another episode, Jinx spells out her name for Madame Rouge. This might have something to do with the fact that many fans keep misspelling her name as 'Jynx'
and continue to do so.
- Some of the more irate comic fans believed that Eastman and Laird sold out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by "kiddifying" them for animation back then. In the 25-year anniversary movie Turtles Forever, Mirage Raphael calls all of his counterparts "sellouts".
- In one episode of Ben 10 Alien Force, Ben is watching a marathon of Sumo Slammers: Hero Generation, which he says takes place five years after Sumo Slammers Classic and isn't really as good as the original, especially because a villain made an unrealistic Heel Face Turn...
- Doubles as a Mythology Gag if you consider that "Hero Generation" was Alien Force's original title.
- Later on in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, we get in one episode Young Ben complaining that Swampfire, as a plant guy, is just a copy of Wildvine. Ben replys with "Sure, remember the time Wildvine did this"? before wrapping the enemy in vines. Another episode has Kevin asking Ben why he shouts the name of the aliens when he transforms. The answer "It strikes fear into my enemies". Both of these naturally were some of the main complaints that fans had about the updated show.
- Doubles as a Mythology Gag if you consider that "Hero Generation" was Alien Force's original title.
- The creators of Total Drama Island pay very close attention to their fans, which is why the season two finale and third season features several nods towards the famous fic, "Total Drama Comeback", such as Beth inexplicably eating cookies, Noah, Izzy, and Tyler having to complete a challenge featuring a goat and the same trio falling asleep under a tree, which is an almost exact replica of a scene from the fic, minus the blanket.
- Noah and Cody returning to the competition was in response to their unexpected popularity among the fans, Chris even lampshades this by looking straight into the camera and introducing them as, "returning favorites".
- On a darker note, Eva, Beth, Katie, Trent, Geoff, and Sadie were kept out of season three in response to how unpopular they were among the fans.
- Tyler complains about being the least talked about contestant amongst fans, saying that even more-minor-than-minor Ezekiel has more fans, which is completely true.
- Fan-Preferred Couple Duncan/Gwen becoming canon.
- The Jimmy Two-Shoes episode "Pandamonium" had several pandas being Heloise's Loony Fans, but her not liking them and only caring about Jimmy liking her. Edward Kay admitted this was a Shout-Out to Heloise's enormous popularity.
- A promo video for My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic referenced not only a Fan Community Nickname ("bronies"), but also a Fan Nickname for a minor character (DJ PON-3).
- In "Lesson Zero," Big Macintosh, a grown stallion, is revealed to really like little girls' pony dolls.
- The same happens to Spike in "A Canterlot Wedding."
- In "The Last Roundup", Derpy has her Fan Nickname elevated to official canon, much like DJ PON-3's was.
- In "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000", a background pony nicknamed "Doctor Whooves" (because of his hairstyle and hourglass cutie mark) is given a tie and a timekeeping job with an houglass. Additionally, another background pony nicknamed "Berry Punch" (with grapes and a strawberry as her mark) gets upset when told that there's "not a drop of cider to be found".
- In the background of Secret of My Excess Derpy Hooves interrupts two ponies who almost always shipped together in Fanon.
- In "Lesson Zero," Big Macintosh, a grown stallion, is revealed to really like little girls' pony dolls.
- Transformers Animated: In The Allspark Almanac II, it's stated that Red Alert develpoed a cure for Gold Plastic Syndrome; a fandom term for the phenomenon where a toy's plastic decomposes and becomes brittle to the point of shattering under minimal stress.