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The Wild Fan Theory That Suggests A Big Problem With Tenet

For more than two decades, Christopher Nolan has basically been daring the general public to figure out what the hell he's working on. Remember when the trailer for Inception was basically just a subwoofer exploding? Or when all we knew about Interstellar was that there was corn involved? Do you recall the way that The Dark Knight Rises ad campaign gave audiences little to no knowledge that Bruce Wayne would only be Batman for 21 minutes out of the nearly three-hour movie? The man peddles making the enigmatic cinematic.

No addition to the Nolanverse, however, has had quite the same lead-up as Tenet, the long-delayed entry in the writer-director's cavalcade of weirdness. Thanks to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, prospective audience members saw the film's release pushed back again and again, leading some to speculate that time is somehow moving backwards as a tribute to Tenet's chief plot device. With that long wait came speculation — more speculation that usual. Lengthy, lengthy Reddit posts were posted, calling out perceived connections to everything from the Old Testament to poorly reviewed horror movies from the early 2000s, best left in the collective subconscious and the $5 rack at Flying J.

No, that's not hyperbole. One particularly compelling fan theory posted to Reddit's /r/tenet forum commits something close to pop culture sacrilege: It posits that Tenet might have something in common with Hollow Man. Call it geeky fantasy, call it someone with too much time on their hands, call it the metatextual last word in Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon; it brings up the rad science fiction argument that people travelling backwards in time wouldn't be able to see a dang old thing. The theory, posted by user Palladin1982, stems from a Hollow Man plot point: By turning invisible, a person would effectively go blind, since incoming light would pass through their eyes' photoreceptors instead of bouncing around like good little photons.

Confused yet?tey desufnoC

"Cool," you might say, "So Claude Rains would have had a harder time putting his bandages on straight. What does that have to do with Tenet?"

The answer, as the user sees it, comes down to those pesky photons, each of which they describe as a "postman carrying letter. The letter describes just what place the postman visited last." So, if a bunch of photons hit a frying pan before bouncing into your eye, they send signals to your photoreceptors that say, "That looks like a frying pan." If they travel directly from the sun into your precious corneas, they say, "Look, that's the sun," and also, presumably, "Ow."

If Tenet is all about people traveling backwards in time, then the light hitting their eyeballs would be scrambled and out of place. They wouldn't be blind, necessarily, but they'd definitely be confused. "Let's get back to postman going from Sun with 'Sun letter' and hitting (the) apple which changes his letter to 'Apple letter,'" writes Palladin1982. "It doesn't matter to (the) postman where he goes next, he just carries 'Apple letter.' If he meets someone, he hands over the letter. If not, he keeps on going. Now forget that the postman actually travels at (the) speed of light. Let's presume he just walks at normal speed at which humans walk. Now inverted person enters the scene. What is happening around this inverted person? There are billions of postmen walking backwards, reversing. Each one of them is actually returning the letter back to sender."

It's okay if your brain hurts. It was going to anyway; it's a Christopher Nolan movie. The user even went back and reconsidered their hypothesis, stating that they, "Forgot that there are billions of postmen returning from space with 'Ground letter,' they hit the ground, get their letters exchanged to 'Sun letters' and they head back to Sun. So, inverted people could see the Sun if they wanted – they have to stare at the ground."

Anyway, Bill and Ted Face the Music came out this week, too, if you're suddenly feeling as tired as we are.