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The Zapp Brannigan Theory That Would Change Everything On Futurama

Loud-mouthed, misogynistic, and ever-so-oafish, Zapp Brannigan in "Futurama" is a testament to incompetent military officers. As captain of the Nimbus and the most decorated officer in the Democratic Order of Planets (DOOP), Brannigan made his way up the ranks by climbing over the piles of bodies created by his own ineffective strategic decisions. On top of that, his apparent bravado as a captain is merely a thin shield protecting the pathetic man underneath. On the whole, he's a joke, a satire of James T. Kirk of "Star Trek" fame, who was created by the show's writers to poke fun at the space heroes of old.

However, there might be more to the moron that is Zapp Brannigan than fans might initially expect. One "Futurama" fan theory posits that the weakling we know is not the whole picture. Zapp Brannigan might actually be smart but plagued by a dark past that spurs him to put on an act of incompetence by the time viewers are introduced to him in the first season. If it's true, the theory would change everything fans think about Zapp in "Futurama."

Zapp might suffer greatly from the traumas of war

According to this theory, Zapp really is a strategic genius worthy of his ranking in the DOOP military. However, the incident that sparked his rise up DOOP's ranks also proves to be his psychological downfall. When viewers first meet Zapp, they learn the captain has just received an illustrious medal for winning a major victory against a rampaging army of killbots. His strategy, in pure Brannigan form, involved simply throwing waves of his own men at the horde of killbots until it overloaded their kill limit, rendering them inoperable.

In the moment, this incident is depicted as an incompetent move on Zapp's part, but one he nonetheless paints as a stunning victory that stands as a testament to his leadership skills. However, the fan theory recontextualizes this move as a necessary sacrifice, one that sends Zapp on a downward spiral of guilt until he begins feigning incompetence in order to get discharged. Instead of a braggadocious yet stupid military commander, Zapp is a scarred veteran tormented by his PTSD.

This theory certainly succeeds at making Zapp more sympathetic. In the past, the only gentle feeling viewers could muster toward him was pity. With this new perspective, however, they might be more forgiving of his rude and overbearing antics. The only issue is that this theory contains a few holes.

Why Zapp can't have PTSD from the killbots

On the surface, this theory sounds solid. After all, few military leaders could sacrifice so many of their men and come out the other end mentally healthy. However, Zapp's wimpy persona is true to the core of his character. Not only does Zapp not regret sacrificing his men, but he would also do it all over again to secure his position in DOOP.

For instance, in "Into the Wild Green Yonder," Zapp orders his ship to charge headfirst into the windmill trap of a massive pan-galactic mini-golf course. His ship, the Nimbus, is bisected, and thousands of his men are sent hurtling unprotected through the vacuum of space. Zapp's response to this scenario is to continue onward whilst singing "Hungry Like The Wolf" by Duran Duran.

And if you think for a second that Zapp did this as a ploy to get dishonorably discharged, you'd be dead wrong. Zapp was already discharged once, in the episode "Brannigan, Begin Again." It occurs after Zapp accidentally destroys the new DOOP satellite headquarters while the majority of DOOP's officials are still inside it. Without his rank as a captain, Zapp becomes even more pathetic and begins working at Planet Express until Leela convinces DOOP to pardon him entirely. 

In the end, Zapp neither regrets his actions nor cares if they continue to hurt people as long as he remains a decorated officer of DOOP.