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Fanon

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"Oh, no — another fan with ideas..."
Actor Sokka, Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Official canon is much smaller than the people who throw the term around like to think it is. Canonicity is limited to that which has actually been described in the source material, though if one must stretch the definition, it may also include anything the creators only mention in interviews or supplementary material. But ultimately, canon boils down to what the creators specifically need to worry about conveying to the audience for the purposes of the ongoing plot. In short, canon is what the work clearly says about itself.

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Fanon, also known by the term "headcanon"note , is the set of theories based on that source material which, no matter how much they seem to be the "obvious" or "only" interpretation of canonical fact, are not actually part of the canon. It can arise in a few ways, but mostly boils down to clarifying any vagueness in a story and/or trying to justify an idea held about an element of a work. A piece of fanon can come about to explain holes in the story that the creators of a work may have either deliberately left open in order to have fodder for later stories, or never gave any thought to because it was considered an unimportant side detail. Or it can come into existence as a fact gained from a popular but non-canonical source or a different adaptation of the work.

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Because many fans mistake their own fanon for actual canon, they tend to get riled up when a new fact is introduced which does not literally contradict anything canonical, but invalidates what were formerly the most obvious assumptions. Many examples of Retcon and Continuity Drift that are imagined to be violations of canon really only explicitly contradict fanon. In this way, when someone says "That episode was terrible because it violates the canon!", there is a good chance that it only violates their personal canon.

Popular subjects of fanon include character backstories, full names of characters with No Name Given, what characters actually do for a living, and Shipping — a whole other world of its own.

Since many creators in the aftermarket series universe are fans, fanon often shows up there, and if those creators in turn start writing for the main continuity, fanon may actually become canonical. Alternatively, you just have Memetic Mutation within the fandom.

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Remember up above, where we mentioned stretching the definition of canon? Well, if you don't stretch it, fanon can also refer to the body of information provided by otherwise-official sources outside of the main work's continuity. Television and movie scripts are a continuing source of fanon material — Captain James Kirk, for example, has the middle initial ("T.")... but his actual middle name of "Tiberius" was originally revealed in an episode of the Trek animated series; since that show's canonicity is debatable, it was considered "fanon" until featured and explained in the novelisation of the first Star Trek movie, which was written by creator Gene Roddenberry and therefore canonical. It was also stated explicitly in the sixth movie. Note that this usage blurs the line between fanon and deuterocanon, though.

Warning: Fanon and accusations of fanon are a classic Flame Bait, with the accusation commonly leveled by fans who have a different interpretation of the material — even when their theory is just as vulnerable to Schrödinger's Gun.

Compare Broad Strokes, where the events of a story are referenced in passing without taking everything said and done as having "officially" happened. If the fanon was repeatedly hinted at by writers until it became fanon, but never actually confirmed in canon, it's Writer-Induced Fanon. See also Fandom-Specific Plot. Not to be confused with this Fanon or the Pope's robe. Fanon is frequently based on Fanfic Fuel.


Examples:

Franchise-Specific Fanons:

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    Music 
  • Vocaloid: The only things officially canonical are the characters' names, appearances, and voices. Usually. (Some have a couple more minor things, like age and height, while others only have a name and a voice.) Personalities, backstories, relationships, and some characters are pure fanon.
  • Pink Floyd:
    • Fans have generally accepted that Pink, the protagonist of The Wall, was born "Floyd Pinkerton", and that "Pink Floyd" is his stage name. In the original album, he's only referred to as "Pink" and "Mr. Floyd" in two separate moments, but the movie adaptation includes a brief scene where his deceased father's name is given on a memorial plaque as "J.H. Pinkerton", and one of Pink's friends can be heard calling him "Pinky" (a logical nickname for someone with the surname "Pinkerton") in another scene.
    • Though somewhat less unanimous than the above theory, many fans also believe that The Final Cut, Roger Waters' final album with the band, is partially an epilogue/continuation of The Wall. In particular, many have theorized that the titular song, "The Final Cut", is told from Pink's perspective as he contemplates suicide sometime after recovering from his mental breakdown, and that "When the Tigers Broke Free" is about the death of his father. The latter point is supported by the film version of The Wall, which actually includes "When the Tigers Broke" in the soundtrack, but it's unknown if Waters actually wrote the song with Pink in mind.
  • "Fuck You" by Archive is about someones utter disdain for another. Due to a line late in the song most believe it's referring to the singer himself, warping it into a song about severe self-hatred.
  • The female voice in "Sad Machine" by Porter Robinson is often assumed to be Rin, the protagonist in "Shelter" because of both of them existing in a virtual space who end up connecting to the outside world over the course of the songs.
  • Nobody seems to know where the theory that R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People" is about Chinese communist propaganda comes from, but it certainly doesn't come from the band themselves. They have often openly regretted writing the song but they've never tried to justify it by ascribing any deeper meaning to it. It hasn't stopped other people from trying to do so.
  • Dion DiMucci's song "The Wanderer" is a Sequel Song to "Runaround Sue".
  • Rachel Rose Mitchell's "Hey Alice" is Villain Song from the perspective of someone patrionizing Alice of Alice In Wonderland. Fans theorize that Alice is being sent to a Bedlam Asylum and the singer is either her sister or her therapist. Another interpretation is that it's about Alice choosing between sanity and madness (or fantasy and reality).

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Many fans believe that Garfield and Jim Davis's lesser-known second strip, U.S. Acres, take place in the same universe. While this is true on the Garfield and Friends side, it's never been confirmed or debunked in the strips.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theater 
  • Hamlet is a breeding ground for these, due partly to centuries of theatrical interpretation and partly to Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory induced by high school English classes. Thus, for instance, many people take it for granted that Hamlet is genuinely mad instead of faking it.
  • The Little Shop of Horrors fandom often gives Audrey's full name as Audrey Fulquard. This surname is from The Little Shop of Horrors, the B-movie on which the musical is—very loosely—based.

    Theme Parks 
  • Disney's Haunted Mansion hasn't got any real official backstory so far, although there are just enough clues to make the audience wonder. The Internet has a gigantic amount of theories about the backstory of the Mansion. More recent additions to the Mansion seem to create a "canonical" backstory have raised great protestation from the fans who imagined a backstory as they rode through the attraction.

    Visual Novels 
  • Nasuverse: "The Moonlit World" isn't what the Magical Society is called in official works. It originated as the name of the website that formerly hosted the Nasuverse fan forum Beast's Lair. When the site was rebooted after an untimely crash, the website portion of the forum was lost. The term "Moonlit World", however, was such a unique way to describe The Masquerade and its many wonders and dangers that fans kept it around for their fanworks and forum discussions.
  • Umineko: When They Cry is a case where Fanon is actually encouraged by the author. Ryūkishi wants the readers to have their own ideas and reach their own conclusions about the plot and the characters. Very few answers about the mysteries are revealed explicitly; but most readers end up acknowledging a certain conclusion (namely that Beatrice, Kanon and Shannon are one and the same) even if the story never outright states it. The manga tends to be a bit more explicit on some aspects though.

    Web Original 
  • In Neopets, a popular fanmade Neopian Times piece ("Poor Dr_Death") managed to define everything pertaining to the owners of the pound/adoption center. Most notably, the anonymous Uni was given a name, and nobody has found cause to dispute Dr_Death's characterization as a lovable Deadpan Snarker. (At least, not until his official appearance suddenly became much Lighter and Softer with the rest of the website, but that's another issue.)
  • It's become Fanon in the shipping community that Ask That Guy is The Nostalgia Critic's twin brother and that he lives in his house. And that they're very close.
    • And that The Other Guy is the older, slightly saner brother that the Critic goes to when he needs to lick his wounds.
    • Again with them, any fic that takes place when they were younger calls them Doug and Guy. For common sense purposes really, it'd be silly for their parents to call them "Critic" and "Ask That Guy".
    • Its become Ascended Fanon that they're brothers, as Ask That Guy recently referred to Rob as his brother.
    • Spurred by Ask That Guy's love of his pipe and Doug's penchant for blowjob jokes, Critic being really good at oral has become almost a meme in fics.
    • Also that Dr. Insano's son is named "SOI" (Son Of Insano). And he goes to school.
    • After Kickassia was finished, it's usually accepted that the Critic was exiled to a hotel room and the others had fun on his tab. What tends to happen next is, unfortunately, wishful thinking.
    • Given that an episode was based around married Donnie having a Love Triangle with two men, it's commonly assumed that he wrecked his miserable marriage by having an affair.
  • Red vs. Blue has a lot of these. According to an inordinate number of fans...
    • Wash and CT had a romantic relationship, despite only interacting twice in the show. (In fairness, both times implied they were closer than most Freelancers, but he doesn't even react when she turns traitor... or when the Freelancers attack Charon Industries to capture or kill her. Alternately, Grif/Simmons. While Tucker does make a remark about them being in love, their relationship in the show is pretty much just ordinary Heterosexual Life-Partners.
      • There's also a large group of fans who believe that at least some of the Freelancers served in the Human-Covenant War, with some specifically stating that Wash fought at the Battle of Reach. While Project Freelancer's origins are confirmed as being related to the Great War (specifically, Project Freelancer was created as a "magic-bullet" program during the midst of the war so as to save humanity by both experimenting on human-A.I. interactions and the various possible threats that soldiers would encounter on the galactic battlefield), no Freelancers are recorded as actually getting involved in the Great War.
    • Crunchbite was reincarnated as Junior. There's some evidence for this in the series, but it's far from explicitly said.
    • Epsilon is metastable/rampant. Metastability in the Halo universe is, to borrow a phrase from the forums, a big deal, involving some very obvious and extreme stages. Epsilon hasn't really exhibited any of these (except maybe anger) and it's likely he's not even capable of it (being a fragment, not a full AI), yet it's such a common fan theory that it's often stated as fact, even on This Very Wiki.
    • Carolina's nickname (often given to her by York) is Lina. She's never called anything but Carolina in the show, though, even by York. Alternately, her real name is Carol and she almost always is shown using the gravity hammer, despite using it just twice in the series—pistols or melee are much more part of her fighting style, yet fans have latched onto the grav hammer instead.
    • Sarge was previously an ODST. It is mentioned that Sarge jumped out of ships "during the war", so it's possible, but again, it's far from confirmed. However, this actually became a case of Canon Immigrant status in Season 15, with Sarge outright mentioning him previously being in the ODST.
    • Character appearances have been pretty well cemented by Luke McKay's fan art, leading most people to believe Caboose is a blonde, Grif and Simmons have brown hair, Tex has red hair, Church has black hair and stubble, etc. While Church's appearance has sort of been confirmed (the Director indeed looks like an older, even grumpier Luke McKay Church), some of the others are definitely not correct (Tucker is implied to be black, unlike Luke McKay's white depiction, and Tex is a blonde... or at least the original Allison was).
    • After the Freelancer Prequel Duology in Season 14 (The Triplets and "The Mission"), most fans think that Freelancer Agent Ohio's group and Charon Agent Sherry's group were the main inspiration for the Red & Blue Teams (or at least gave the Director the initial idea for them). Also, many fans think that the icy wasteland of a planet they're stranded on is Sidewinder (since it's the only other ice planet encountered in the series).
  • Welcome to Night Vale: Partly as a result of the series suddenly going very viral after a long slow burn, there is a fanon interpretation of Cecil's appearance that many people mistake for canon—including living tattoos, tentacles, purple eyes, blond hair, tall, slim, some manner of "hipster" clothes which have purple and a tie in them, a Third Eye (which may or may not be a tattoo) and glasses. Canonically, everything we know about Cecil's physical appearance comes from Kevin's non-description of his picture during The Sandstom. Only the tie part is accurate.
    It is a man. He is wearing a tie. He is not tall or short, not thin or fat. He has eyes like mine and a nose like mine, and hair like mine, but I do not think he is me. Maybe it is the smile. Is that a smile? I can’t say.
    • Kevin himself is often depicted as Cecil, but dark-skinned and dark-haired, possibly with glowing tattoos, and inverted colors on his otherwise-identical clothes.
  • Awful Hospital gave birth to an entire community founded around roleplaying as Eldritch Abominations, found at Awful Hospital Roleplay Forum
  • It's never outright stated in Matt Santoro's videos, but it's a common fan theory that Hugo, Matt's clone, also has the last name Santoro.
  • Twitch Plays Pokémon is a general source of this, mostly because of the gimmick of multiple people being able to control the main character at once. Most stories and personalities of the main character tend to be crafted from whatever incident occurs unervous their influence, and most everybody will have a different interpretation of those two items.
  • Humanoid fanart for Happy Tree Friends usually follow the same basic designs. For example, Flippy is almost always presented as an young man with short green hair wearing an army cap, a black t-shirt, dog tags, and an army jacket. Flaky has long, slightly wavy Messy Hair with dandruff in it and wears a red or white sweater. The fact Flaky is supposed to be androgynous rarely comes up in fanworks as she looks very feminine.
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared:
    • The sketchbook has an Ambiguous Gender but almost the entire fandom considers them female. She is often given the Fan Nickname "Paige", and people usually refer to her as a "notepad" rather than a sketchbook. Her humanized form is a woman with long Multicolored Hair wearing a white dress with red trimmings (and optional designs). Her face is white and her arms are black and inky.
    • Tony has a human design of a man with blue skin with a red stripe on his face, black hair (often with yellow tips), and yellow facial hair. Tony wears formal attire and a bow-tie.
    • Tony and Paige are both portrayed as Cute But Psycho and Ax-Crazy. Whether they get along differs from fan to fan but nevertheless they're usually presented as having a violent relationship.
    • Shrignold doesn't have a concrete fanon design. His human versions often wears a yellow turtleneck, or yellow scarf, though.
    • Colin almost always wears glasses in his human designs.
  • Fanart for Friendship is Witchcraft often has Pinkie Pie dressed in stereotypical Romani clothing.
  • Camp Camp: Canadian!David and Colombian!Gwen are extremely popular, with Latina or Hispanic Gwen being near universal. Max is usually of Indian descent (ultimately became canon in the Heritage Festival/Hanukkah special), with Native American or biracial also being popular (in the case of the latter, he's typically half-Hindi/half-Caucasian but the Hindi part can be swapped for Native American or other POC options and half-Hindi/half-other-POC-option is not unheard of).
    • David was a foster child at some point and had a rough go of it. Alternately he had a good family but an awful and/or absent father.
    • Max's parents are physically abusive, hence why he never takes off his hoody. Alternately, there's nothing to hide but he has a sensory quirk that means he doesn't like to be without long sleeves.
    • David's surname is usually Greene/Green, Greenwood, Wood/Woods, Pine/Pines, Forest or Forester. Gwen is almost always "Santos" though "Lopez" can be an option.
    • Max will become a counselor at Camp Campbell as a teen/adult. Neil and Nikki commonly join him but this isn't universal.
    • David's job outside of the camp is frequently in education, such as a classroom teacher or a professional tutor.
    • Neil is commonly seen as autistic. David is also popularly thought to be on the spectrum as well.
      • After "Attack of the Nurfs" showcased Max printing out a sensory deprivation tank, many fans began theorizing that he's on the spectrum too.
    • Nikki's mom and Neil's dad eventually hook up for real.
  • The Adventure Zone: Balance: Many fans headcanoned Taako as Hispanic due to his name being a pun on 'taco' and his professed life goal being to invent tacos one day, even though his player Justin jokingly said "White" when asked about Taako's race in the first episode.

Alternative Title(s): Head Canon, Fanons

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