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Things that are frequently proposed in fan theories at a rate disproportionate to their occurrence in actual works of fiction.

See Also: Poison Oak Epileptic Trees

Theories common to general fandom

  • The cast died in the first episode and now they're all in Purgatory! Explicitly Jossed by the creators of Lost, among other writers. There was an infamous (false) rumor that this was how Dungeons and Dragons would end. After being explicitly Jossed, Lost actually ended this way, though its characters ended in Purgatory after dying during the series rather than being Dead All Along.
    • Of course, there's also the one where character X is literally Jesus/God/Satan.
    • Inversion: pick any character who died. They aren't really dead / they'll come back.
      • Depending on the fandom this might not even be an epileptic tree. For instance in comics the only characters who stay dead are Bucky, Jason Todd and Uncle Ben. Oh wait.[1]
  • All Just a Dream. This arguably reflects either some fans' lack of faith in the writers or their lack of imagination; revealing that the whole story was a dream as a Deus Ex Machina has been a Dead Horse Trope for quite a while.
    • A twisted version of All Just a Dream: The hero is insane and delusional, and the entire story is his hallucination in an asylum.
    • Dying Dream is a very commonly speculated form.
    • The Tommyverse is well-known outside of TV Tropes and serves as The Most Triumphant Example of this trope. Essentially Six Degrees of St Elsewhere it postulates that every show that has ever crossed-over with St. Elsewhere exists in a shared universe wherein everything takes place entirely within the mind of autistic child Tommy Westphall, and the shows that crossed over with them, and so-on. This ultimately leads to a staggering number of television shows stretching from The X-Files to Arrested Development. On the other end of the spectrum it has sparked some fascinating (and pretentious!) discussions about the nature of intertextuality, metafiction, As Himself, and other such post-modern concepts.
    • Suggesting that a series takes place within Instrumentality is a more TV-Tropes specific take on this one.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father. A legitimate trope, but fans take it way too far, especially with their tendency to assume that the Big Bad is the father of The Hero, even when there is obvious evidence against it. This is probably influenced by the widespread belief that Freud Was Right and that all conflicts can be reduced to Oedipus Calling the Old Man Out.
  • The Big Bad is actually a pawn of the real Big Bad, who is the character you would least suspect (for example, the ridiculously cute Non-Human Sidekick).
  • The story is actually being told by Character X, who may be an Unreliable Narrator.
  • The protagonist is the villain.
  • The protagonist is fighting on the wrong side. The agency they work for is secretly working for the enemies, or has a conspiracy going.
  • Character X is a mole or traitor who will Face Heel Turn.
  • Any fantasy setting is often presumed to be Earth All Along either far in the future or far in the past, the epileptic trees even covering up cases where the dates are explicitly stated through an Unreliable Narrator.
  • Character X and Y share the same last name, therefore are related.
  • Any "Character X and Character Y are the same person" theories qualify, even when there's no clear reason for one or the other character to change his identity and they don't look anything alike. (Lost gets this a lot, too).
    • By extension, Character X is actually a Shape Shifter or Body Snatcher pretending to be Character X (in universes where they exist).
  • Show X is set in the same universe as Show Y.
    • Inversion: The spin-off is not really set in the same universe as the original.
    • Or sometimes: The spinoff IS set in the same universe as the original
  • The entire story is an Author Tract regardless of Word of God. Common topics include sexuality, religion, politics, nukes or drugs.

Theories common to TV Tropes fandom


  1. Bucky and Jason Todd are both back from the dead. Uncle Ben is still dead only due to Death By Origin Story
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