The examination of popular culture is no longer a pursuit reserved for academics. Fan theories spring up across the internet every week. Anyone can toss out an idea about the hidden meaning behind a recurring prop in a TV show or a seemingly insignificant character stenciled into the background of comic book panels. It doesn’t matter if there’re letters after your name as long as you put forth a compelling argument that taps into an unexplored idea. Some theories thrive and others take a nosedive upon closer inspection. Let’s see which ones stand up.
This one hails from Imgur user John Wray (aka jimmylegs50). Entitled ‘Zombie Story’ his creative mind saw a clear correlation between two popular entities: Toy Story and The Walking Dead. His hypothesis? They’re actually the same story. Mad! One is an animated feature about toys — albeit with some dark subtext — while the other is a gory, bleak tale of human survival. They can’t possibly be alike, can they?
“Betcha’ didn’t realize that Toy Story and The Walking Dead have virtually the same characters and storylines, did you?”
Wray makes a solid case based on the uncanny similarities between specific examples within the two titles. The side-by-side comparisons of images along with his own captions make for a foolproof argument. None of the screenshots i doctored. The examples presented from both are as they appear onscreen. See, that’s where the trouble starts; their place of exhibition. One is a trilogy, a fixed, self-contained narrative that’s complete, whereas the other is a TV show, an ongoing serial yet to reach its conclusion. Can we really say they’re one and the same when they prescribe to vastly different modes of storytelling?
Referred to as ‘cherry picking’ in the scientific community, the act of selecting pertinent facts to indicate a specific outcome is nothing new. That’s not to say that the two don’t share the same elements; they do. It’s simply the manner in which they’re presented that raises flags. But hey, what theory doesn’t involve a certain amount of cajoling, right? Wray’s knack for auto-suggestion is impressive. As the slideshow progresses it’s easy to nod along at all of his observations. Oh my god, yes, Carl’s journey is just like Andy’s. Holy crap, when Rick ices Shane? Totally like when Woody and Buzz come to blows.
And yet, the majority of Toy Story’s plot is excised from his analysis — especially the second installment. A little like bashing a round peg into a square hole, the pieces fit if you try hard enough.
Throughout the history of critical comment, archetypal characters in fiction have formed a large portion of what’s termed ‘the hero’s journey.’ Carl Jung theorised that all human traits are inherited through our shared cultural heritage, via our collective consciousness. In short, people tend to behave the same way.
On that rationale, it’s easy to point out the similarities in characters between The Walking Dead and Toy Story… but it’s just as easy to connect the dots with other texts from pop. Culture too.