Created By: normal on July 7, 2011 Last Edited By: normal on July 9, 2011

Writer-Induced Fanon

Writers deliberately plant a seed for specific fanon to develop.

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This is when writers want to include an idea--any element contributing to the plot or a character--in canon, but don't want to explicitely state it. As a work-around, the writers hint at the idea until it's accepted by most of the fandom.

These hints are usually strong enough that most of the fandom gets the right idea fairly quickly, but not so strong that they can't be ignored or attributed to something else if the viewer dislikes the idea being hinted at.

This tactic is most often employed when writers want to include an element such as mental illness, rape, or another sensitive topic in a plotline or a character's backstory as a means of plot or character development, but don't want to explicitly state it to avoid controversy or alienating certain viewers.

If the hints are particularly weak or ambiguous, it can be difficult to determine if they are deliberate or merely a coincidence. Short of a Word of God confirmation of intent, the easiest way to establish this is if the idea is built on as if it was canon.

This trope is most common in live TV-shows, but shows up in other mediums fairly often as well.


Live-Action TV
  • From NCIS, Ziva having been raped in Somalia. It was hinted at by Gibbs and Vance throughout the beginning of the seventh season and is widely accepted fanon.
    • The idea is further used throughout the seventh and eighth seasons to help develop Ziva as a character, as well as her relationships with other characters, most substantially Gibbs, Tony, and her father, but remains non-canon.
  • Renee Walker having been raped on 24. While it was pretty evident that she was raped by Vladimir Laitanan during the events of Day 8, the writers never more than hinted at the idea that she was also raped when she was undercover with the Russians before. This is one of the most widely accepted pieces of fanon in the 24 fandom, many fans even considering it canon.
    • This idea is later used to help validate what Renee ends up doing to Laitanan.
  • From Bones, Brennan having Asperger's Syndrome was an example of this until she was given a Word of God diagnosis.
    • Brennan is still an example of this is you don't consider the word of God to be canonical.
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • July 7, 2011
  • July 7, 2011
    • In Avatar The Last Airbender, Zuko's mother was banished for committing "treasonous acts", however it's never stated what these acts were. Coincidentally, she was banished right around the time Fire Lord Azulon died. It's now widely believed amongst the fanbase that she was responsible for his death, despite no confirmation in Canon or by Word Of God.
  • July 7, 2011
  • July 7, 2011
    How can you know for sure this trope is in effect without Word Of God?
  • July 7, 2011
    You can usually tell if an idea, such as an event in a character's backstory, is repeatedly hinted at, enough that the event becomes fanon, but the hints are just vague enough that they can be interpreted another way. Bonus points if the event, were it stated flat-out in canon, would cause a lot of controversy. Confirmation usually comes in the form of the event being used as if it was canon to further develop the character/plot/a relationship.

    As an example, let's say that a show strongly hints at the possibility of Susie having lost a baby as a teenager. Almost all of the fans accept this, but the hints are vague enough so that they can also be interpreted to support the idea that the baby that died was Susie's younger sister. Confirmation for the supporters of the first theory would come in the form of Susie over-empathizing with a mother who has just lost her baby and being very tight-lipped when Joe asks her why (why would be tight lipped if it was her sister?) and getting teary-eyed when watching mothers interact with their children. So while Susie losing her sister fits with the hints (though not as well as the more widely accepted story), it doesn't explain either of these situations, where Susie losing her daughter does.

    Of course, there are alternate explanations for both of these situations, but really only one that explains them both, and the show has already hinted at it repeatedly.

    As far as absolute confirmation goes, outside of a Word Of God confirmation, it doesn't tend to happen because any sort of confirmation in canon would, in most cases, defeat the purpose, the purpose being to get a point across to the majority of viewers while offering an alternate explanation for those viewers who don't want to believe. In most cases, to use a legal metaphor (I've been watching a lot of Law & Order lately), you're going to get a lot of strong evidence, but you're not going to get a confession, and there is always an alternate theory of the crime.

    Anyway, hope that long-winded response helped.
  • July 8, 2011
    A rare case in Western Animation. Someone on the fan list (where several of the show's writers lurk) brought up the disturbing possibility that the Queen didn't put Zachary in the Psychocrypt right after his capture, but decided to take out some frustrations on him first, especially since the sches where she's standing over his unconscious body was dripping with some disturbing Foe Yay. One of the writers delurked to admit that the writers themselves had very off-color speculations about Her Majesty's sex life. It's about a 50-50 split in the fandom whether she "just" used Mind Rape, or went for something more...inappropriate for a animated show.
  • July 8, 2011
    I'm pretty sure this is Canon Fodder.
  • July 8, 2011
    I'm not so sure. Intentional Canon Fodder seems to be what leads to this. From what I've been able to tell, canon fodder is the hints and this is the fanon that results from the hints.
  • July 8, 2011
    ...the thing is, this is next to impossible to determine. There are those who insist this is the case for Kirk and Spock being lovers (and probably many, many other pairings).

    Reading Canon Fodder, I honestly have no idea what it's supposed to be.
  • July 8, 2011
    There is definitely some subjectivity in there. I'm sure a lot of people would also claim this for Olivia and Alex on Law & Order: SVU, and, having watched the show, I can honestly say that, until that episode in season 11, I wasn't sure if this was the case or not. That being said, I'm sure there are some pairings where this actually is the case, but you bring up a good point on the subjectivity of it all, because it is a grey area.

    As for Kirk and Spock, I haven't actually seen Star Trek (except the knew one, which any Star Trek fan will tell you, doesn't even count), so I can't attest to anything other than to say that, given when Star Trek aired, had Kirk and Spock actually been lovers, it probably would have been this rather than canon, just because of the controversy it would have caused. But again, I've never seen Star Trek, so I have no idea if this is the case.

    I think another important thing to look at is whether the fanon came first, or whether the idea was hinted at first, because for this to apply, the fanon has to develop as a result of the hints.

    And I'll agree that what exactly Canon Fodder is is unclear.
  • July 9, 2011
    Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr discussed at length the Ho Yay between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in interviews to the point of leading several groups into believing that the gay subtext between the characters would actually become text within the film. The actual film portrayal is a fairly straight forward Bromance between two Heterosexual Life Partners who both have female love interests.