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The Futurama Fan Theory That Explains Fry's Dramatic Change

It would seem impossible for an ordinary, average Joe to stand out in a show with as colorful a cast of characters as those featured in "Futurama." But alas, the Matt-Groening-created animated sitcom managed to hit a home run with Philip J. Fry. Fry is an average pizza deliveryman in the year 1999. However, after being mistakenly cryogenically frozen, he awakens in the year 3000. From here, Fry finds work with a planetary delivery service and embarks on a series of misadventures with a crew consisting of a loudmouth robot, a one-eyed pilot, a 160-year-old professor (who's also Fry's direct descendent), and an incompetent lobster-alien doctor.

In the wrong hands, Fry's naive, immature, and endlessly lazy nature could have created an absolute mess of an unlikable character. However, thanks to Groening's guiding eye and the always-stellar voice performance by Billy West, Fry became the heart of the wacky sci-fi comedy. Despite his myriad shortcomings, he has a genuinely good nature about him, and he is known for going to extreme lengths for his friends. As the show goes on, he shows many admirable signs of maturity. But where did all of this growth stem from? 

Fry's purposeful parasites that help change his world

For some fans, there's one episode that is the catalyst to Fry's growth. A thread by u/radford_6920 points to the Season 3 episode "Parasites Lost." In this episode, Fry is infected with superworms after eating an egg sandwich at a gas station. With heightened intelligence and awareness, he wins over Leela (Katey Sagal). By the end, Fry fears that Leela only likes him for what the parasites have done and puts an end to their control, which also ends Leela's attraction to him. The user suggested that although Fry was left mostly the same, he realizes his potential and he tries to improve himself from this point on.

Others found the fan theory to work surprisingly well. A deleted user and u/homestar1994 admitted that they hadn't thought of that before, but saw how it made sense. Interestingly, original poster u/radford_6920 thought even deeper about the idea, saying, "The lesson I took was that 'the greatest gift you can give a person is the promise of working towards your potential.'"

Notably, there were even others who added to this theory. For example, u/Lord_Folder questioned if the worms actually left Fry's body, since he comes out clean of numerous physical scrapes throughout the show, "So, I postulate that the worms never actually left Fry. But instead decided that in order to continue living they would have to take a back seat and no longer improve Fry. Just do enough maintenance to keep him (and them) alive." Elsewhere, u/soylentsandwich suggested that even though Fry needs to work on his maturity, he is not able to undo all the work the worms did to alter his intelligence.  Just as interesting as this moment is the journey Fry takes to find that balance of maturity and intelligence.  

Fry's meaningful and heartfelt arc can teach us all

Fry's journey throughout "Futurama" is so inspiring that it's easy to forget that he is only an animated character and not a real person who we hope to be. His 20th-century life was far from a delightful one. With a tough military father, a brother he was feuding with, an untrustworthy girlfriend, and a menial job as a pizza delivery guy, Fry seemed doomed to fail and never aspire to anything. Upon his awakening in the year 3000 after his accidental cryogenic freezing, Fry seems to still have no real chance of making anything of his life, even being assigned to the same kind of job with the Planet Express Delivery Crew. 

It would be from here, upon befriending Bender and falling in love with Leela, that Fry's true character growth would begin. Alongside the show's comedic and sci-fi antics, we also get to witness Fry transform as a person. He starts off as a dim-witted, lazy individual who has a difficult time expressing his emotions to Leela. But through his numerous relationships, variety of occupations, and even discovery that he was purposefully sent to the future to save the planet from invasion, Fry grows as a person. He learns his value and potential, which slowly, but surely, wins over Leela by the end. Fry remains a reminder to us all that there is hope out there to get better and be rewarded at the end, as long as we stay true to ourselves.  

Probably no one said it better than Fry's voice actor, Billy West, who told Vanity Fair in 2020 that Fry, despite not being very bright, is still a gentleman at the end of the day.