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Dallas: Canon, Fanon and Headcanon

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by Mel O'Drama, Jun 13, 2020.

  1. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    Caveat: this thread contains wormholes to parallel universes, alternative realities, a possible multiverse and even Knots Landing. Don't say you weren't warned.





    Intrigued by little nuggets of information that some Dallas fans haven't watched Knots Landing (and vice versa), I'd originally considered posting a simple poll asking if fans consider Knots Landing an official part of Dallas universe. Who knows, maybe I still will.

    But this starting thought has opened a whole can of worms. The Dallas canon is a very broad church indeed. And my mind is starting to get a bit blown with too many possibilities and combinations for one poll to contain.



    To clarify (or potentially confuse), here are a few definitions:

    • Canon: The source material. In fiction-based fandoms, "canon" is simply the source narrative you're referring to when you talk about that thing you like. Some people have different ideas of what "canon" is — for example, many Harry Potter fans don't consider anything but the published books to be canon, while other fans include the extra information author J.K. Rowling has provided about the wizarding world on her website and on Twitter.
      In Dallas terms, some might choose to take on only oral history spoken within the primary series, while others build a bigger picture from written material and those fleshed out in books, spin-offs, sequels and prequels - or any combination thereof.

    • Fanon: These are the pieces of information fans make up to supplement their canons. Sometimes a detail gets widely distributed and becomes a major fanon trope, meaning it makes its way around fandom and becomes a well-known idea. And to really break your brain, sometimes that trope makes its way back to the creators of the source material, who stick the fanon trope into canon.
      An example of this might be a trope common in the Knots forum that Knots Landing and Dallas operated in the same universe until Bobby's resurrection and different universes thereafter.

    • Headcanon: A sub-branch of "fanon" is actually called "headcanon." When someone invents a piece of fanon they really believe in, it may not be accepted as a general part of fandom, but it still stays tucked away inside its creator's brain; it thus becomes his or her personal "headcanon."
      The question of Wes Parmalee being Jock might fit here, though perhaps not a great example since the storyline was somewhat open-ended. But it's an example of how two viewers may receive the information differently and reach different conclusions. I'm sure someone can come up with a better example.

    (Source)



    There is indeed Knots: the direct, official spin-off. But there's also The Early Years, pitched as the official prequel. There are the Nineties reunion films which seem to have a lukewarm reception and are perhaps skipped by some. There's (dare I say it) TNT Dallas.

    But even within the "main" series itself there are arguments for creators and fans alike choosing to cherry pick what's real and not. Changes in creative teams might arguably have changed the vision for the series established in 1978, taking it to a point that is no longer viewed as canonical.

    Events and characters from later in the series might retcon facts established earlier on. Most famously, the dream "resolution" asked even the most casual of viewers - and at least one character - to accept that the source narrative had changed. Or had it?

    Some people's DVD collection might end with Bobby's death, Pam's tanker crash or Sue Ellen going off with Lovejoy. Some viewers may have switched off with Bobby's resurrection and kept the Dream Season as their headcanon. For others, events in Knots or in 21st Century Dallas enrich the original series and the picture is only partially complete without the information in these.

    In addition, there's printed-word Dallas. The novels which fictionalise both the series and its pre-history, and where events could sometimes happen slightly differently to on-screen. Can we assume these are non-canon? Some alternative universe? Or would either option be taking a lot for granted?

    In non-prose books, we have the "official" biographies of the characters in the Laura Van Wormer book. Do contradictions in later seasons make the book non-canon? Or is it the other way round? Or was the book non-canon to start with.

    There's also the concept of a multiverse in which all the realities happily co-exist and even depend on one another to exist (which to my mind is probably closer to the reality of the situation).


    So, with this in mind, I'm curious to know:

    • Which areas of the available material make up your true Dallas universe? And why?
    • Is your Dallas universe made up of multiple parts of the available material (parent series, spin-offs, prequels, reunions, books), or restricted to just one?
    • Do you have a headcanon that differs from what you understand canon to be (i.e., do you know that certain things are "real", but airbrushing them keeps you sane)?
    • Has your opinion about what Dallas is changed over the years?

    It might be helpful if we don't talk in terms of "absolutes" about whether something is right or wrong. It's all subjective.

    It would be a miracle to get a consensus as to what's absolute canon or and what isn't, so let's not even try. But it might be fun to see what material makes up the Dallas universe that you choose to call yours.
     
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Oh, this is interesting!

    And even within that, of course, the Ewingverse is chockful of unreliable narrators.

    I love the atmosphere of the Lee Raintree novel so that's always in the back of my mind, but I don't worry too much about Val's name really being Maureen or that JR is Lucy's father.

    It's been a long time since I read that book and I kind of discounted it because it resolved and explained all the characters a bit too neatly for my taste. Perhaps I'd be more open to it now.

    Yes, I think I'm a multiverse kind of a guy.

    The way I look at it, everything that happened on screen happened. At least while it was happening. Anything from anywhere else, if it's useful or interesting enough, also happened. For instance, JR's sexual hang-ups in the Lee Raintree novel, which complement a lot of his behaviour on screen. And whether it was a dream or not, I still like to imagine Mark Graison hanging out with Angelica Nero in '70s Paris.

    Yes, I used to be a lot more rigid about continuity. For instance, it broke my heart when, during the dream season, which I didn't know was a dream season at the time, Cliff magically still had the shares of Wentworth Tool & Die he'd sold to Katherine at the end of Season 6 or that when Matt Cantrell turned up for the first time, everybody knew who he was, including Phyllis, but those things don't seem like a big deal anymore. In fact, I've come to embrace all the contradictions and the paradoxes. I guess the only versions of events I steer clear of are fanfictions. But Dallas, or the Ewingverse, feels a far less concrete "place" than it used to. All there is now is different versions of events.
     
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  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Apart from the events of "Conundrum", which we are told never happened even as they're happening. Had they been more interesting, I might have been tempted to ignore the fact that they never happened but they're not so I don't.
     
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  4. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle EXP: 19 Years

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    I liked you a little more rigid.
     
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  5. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    Oh yes. Pretty much everything a character says is only as reliable as their memory. Or motive.



    I'm sure off the back of reading that book there are factors that have (mostly subconsciously) informed how I view the series and characters. Even if only a little.

    There's also an element of that for me with the Hirschfeld books. Like almost every time I watch Vaughn Leland confront JR about the crooked deal, there's part of me that's surprised when he doesn't call JR a scummy you know what. Because, for whatever reason, that just seems so real to me.



    Dallas has come to be less concrete for me, too, in my time on SoapChat. It might well be that I'd find it a bit too neat if I read it cover to cover. As it is, I tend to use the Van Wormer books for little details - especially the pre-history stuff. So that has a bearing on how I fill in certain gaps.

    There's also The Early Years and the Raintree book. So that's at least three slightly differing accounts of the same era. And that's before we get to characters discussing the same events. But as you said, I can take that information that fits for me and leave that which doesn't.



    I suppose this is where fanon could come in. If we research/rewatch/discuss enough there will be be some explanation for why and how that happened. But maybe that's a bit too fanficcy.



    I was trying to think if there were other fantasy sequences during Dallas's run, and the only one that sprung immediately to mind was Kristin's version of Sue Ellen's visit the night JR was shot. I dare say there are other flashbacks told that way.

    Thinking about it, wasn't the whole of The Early Years the story as told by JR? So that's a convenient explanation for facts not matching up.
     
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  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Well, you see JR talking to the unseen reporter, but he's mostly admitting that he doesn't know what happened: "I’ve heard lots of stories about the early years … Tall tales are an art form in Texas … You see, that’s the trouble in all these stories. You can’t tell what’s real and not real.” The final shot of that introductory scene, before it flashes back to events of the past, is a lingering close-up of Jock’s portrait, which implies that the story about to be told is based upon the memories of a dead man — a dead man trapped inside a painting caught inside a dream and filtered through David Jacobs' Knotsian sensibilities.
     
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  7. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    Tale as old as time.
     
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  8. Taylor Bennett Jr.

    Taylor Bennett Jr. Soap Chat Dream Maker EXP: 2 Years

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    I'm not sure if this qualifies as headcanon, but in my 'Dallasverse', the whole Jason Ewing business is utterly null and void. At least the dream resolution didn't foul up the wonderfully simple and somewhat ambiguous origin story of the entire series in order to introduce a couple of half-assed characters who looked good in swimsuits and a half-season of "will the Ewings lose Ewing Oil?" storyline.

    Oh, and Cousin Jimmy Monahan moved to Louisiana where he became a fried chicken and barbecue sauce magnate before dropping everything to join an ashram in India and publish surrealist erotic poetry under the pseudonym 'Lucy Digger'.
     
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  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    See, for me, Jason is the physical manifestation of Jock's dark side. When Jock was alive, he was a morally ambiguous character. After his death, he became sanctified and could retroactively do no wrong so Jason was invented to absorb his sins.
     
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  10. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator EXP: 18 Years

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    I accept both the original and TNT's sequel as canon. Not that I joyfully embrace soap retcons, but to me, the concept of soap opera is always "as is". And as long as I can enjoy or at least stomach* the status quo of whatever soap, I'll keep watching.
    In the case of Dallas' sequel series I found that very easy to do. In a strange way, it "connected" me with the main series more than the main series itself had done.

    *I had made the terrible mistake to watch the Murder In Peyton Place movie right after I had finished the soap series. It looked shockingly bad but my curiosity could have overcome that obstacle. However, with the insane continuity errors on top of that it became a totally unstomachable experience for me.

    Dallas' infamous retcon doesn't feel like a retcon anymore once you know what it is. It feels like a waste of time (lots of time) but for the main parts it doesn't alter or contradict the continuity, it only undoes a big part of the soap. I hate to see the reboot-term being misused for all sorts of remakes and sequels, but the dream explanation is definitely a reboot.
    I could think of it as a gimmick, a more lavish looking "Conundrum".
    And because of that DYNASTY look, it could also have been Sammy Jo Carrington's dream after she had fallen asleep on top of the newspaper with the DALLAS article.

    I watch DALLAS and KNOTS LANDING as being unconnected soap operas, eventhough I feel I've watched the birth of the cul-de-sac in the Guzzler episode (of all episodes).
    But the Texan Ewings always seemed so surreal in the Knots Universe.
    I could believe that it was yet another one of Valene's disturbing confusions after she had finished Capricorn Crude, and everyone else is just playing along in order not to upset the fragile Knots diva. I guess it was Abby who hired the Larry Hagman look-alike to play a Capricorn Crude character.

    The Dallas and Knots universes are finally merged in the 2012 sequel series. That was the only time it made perfect sense to me.
    I prefer to cover my ears when it's "revealed" (liars! liars!) that the Colby twins are not Colbys. (sorry, I couldn't think of a Dallas example).

    At this point I struggle to un-think the never-mentioned soap characters Minx Morell and Agatha Scott.
     
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  11. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    If I'm understanding the definitions then that seems exactly the sort of Dallas headcanon I was talking about.


    Oh my. That brings a whole new meaning to the term "headcanon".


    This is great. And I just became a whole lot more interested in Jason Ewing.



    That sounds fairly pure to me. Does this also include the inbetweeny films? Or are they different since they're not a (fully) continuing story.



    Good point, Willie. By its very genre, there's almost an expectation that the audience will come to accept change as it comes if it's done in the right way.




    Ha ha. That would have been great. A dream induced by mixing the National Enquirer, Coke and peanuts.




    Oh - interesting.



    JR certainly did (and David Jacobs kind of addressed it by having someone - Karen? - commenting about him being larger than life). I thought Bobby was a nice fit in the series, as little as he appeared.

    So does this mean that the JR on your canon Dallas never got it together with Abby. And Dallas's Kristin didn't throw herself at Kenny Ward?
     
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  12. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator EXP: 18 Years

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    Yes, I feel they exist in a different atmosphere. a gimmick that kind of resembles the series. Something that you receive as a bonus after spending $$$ in a record store (and therefore not watched by everyone).
    I don't feel strongly about them so I don't consider them canon or un-canon.
    :D
    Exactly. The fictional characters are in different fictional stories, but in my head that's not really possible - and they also don't show it*. And that also illustrates my fascination regarding the paradoxical nature of the spin-off concept.

    I guess the exception was the Magnum/Murder She Wrote crossover that featured on both shows, but their universes are not as strictly confined as the soap worlds.

    *did they show Southfork on Knots when Gary visited his family (Jock's death?)?
     
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  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Winner EXP: 18 Years

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    Yeah, after the reading of Jock's will on Dallas you see Gary talking to Bobby in the Southfork nursery on Knots before going back to the hotel where Abby is waiting. If you think you can stop your head exploding, it's at 1 minute 2o:

     
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  14. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator EXP: 18 Years

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    That appears to be an acceptable exception because Jock's money also affected the story on Knots. But once that was settled it felt like Gary's money (which it was, but....oh my head!)
    Gary had also (off-screen) asked his family to help to explore Empire Valley, which felt a) uncharacteristic for him to do, and b) like an in-joke reference to their craving for and existence solely being defined by the almighty oil - which wasn't there - thus emphasizing the surrealism of the Ewing family in the Knots universe. After all, Knots was not an oil soap.
     
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  15. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle EXP: 19 Years

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    No, you dassn't! Nor the Judith Anderson queen mother connected to all the dynasties somehow -- the Carringtona, the Colbys, the Fallmonts and the Modavian royal family!

    Flesh them out like you're a boss, don't un-think them, my god! :yikey:

    Will them into reality -- that's true Fan Faction!
     
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  16. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle EXP: 19 Years

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    I tend to view Season 1, 2 and 9 of DYNASTY "real" with Season 3 thru 8 some kind of semi-real alternative reality as perceived by Krystle though the confused veil of her headaches, an alternative reality where the basic events actually happened but the way people speak and the nonsensical things they say are filtered and altered by her illness.

    It makes more sense than DALLAS' undone season via a dream by Pam instead of comatose Bobby.
     
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  17. Kenny Coyote

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    The Dallas TV series is what I consider canon. I don't consider the movies canon, although they're the next closest thing to it, with The Early Years being closer to canon then the other movies because it was made during the 1978-1991 time period. To me the movies are semi-canon, I guess.

    I don't consider TNT Dallas canon, although I did enjoy seeing the actors from the original show again in those roles.

    I have something that I don't know if it belongs in any of the three categories, although if I had to put it into one, it's probably canon. It is the idea that certain things that would be unusual or controversial in the real world aren't questioned by characters in the show because it's "Dallas world."

    None of Jock and Miss Ellie's sons were supposed to move out of their parents' home when they grew up. The characters don't question that idea or even mention that it's unusual because it's "Dallas world" so that's perfectly normal for them.

    In "Dallas world" if a man gets angry at another man and punches him, nobody is gonna be so petty as to bring a lawsuit against him.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2020
  18. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle EXP: 19 Years

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    I wonder how Victoria felt about Pam being, maybe, 7 in 1951!
     
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  19. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator EXP: 18 Years

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    They don't question it, they do the opposite - and make it clear to the audience that there's a tremendous attachment to these family properties (they did it in other soaps too, like Julia Cumson said in Falcon Crest "One day I'll find the strength to leave", and Sable Colby literally fainted when she tried to do so. Haha!).
    So that's not the same as passively accepting the fact that they weren't supposed to leave.

    And then when a son actually plans to leave, his wife will tell him that he "can't do that" because she knows that he feels he really belongs there. (Pam to Bobby, after the barn accident, and Fallon to Jeff in The Colbys, and he didn't even grow up in that house).

    It's a clever plot device because something as mundane as moving out creates big drama for these soap characters, but it also connects the audience with their core setting.
     
  20. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator EXP: 11 Years Staff Member

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    I feel similarly about some (but not all) of the early self-contained episodes. It's all part of the same story, but it was told in a different way and the far-reaching consequences were fewer. It's canon, but perhaps lower down the chain of importance.



    New Beginnings feels a more tangible part of Dallas canon to me than, say Community Spirit because it was a true crossover and because the story came directly out of something that happened on Dallas.*

    Knots storylines being referenced on Dallas were pretty rare (Gary's big alcoholic got the Dallas stamp of approval, which perhaps makes it inarguably canonical).


    * It could be argued that all of Knots came directly out of something that happened on Dallas, and so is canon.





    That led me into a vortex of "JR visits Knots Landing" videos, which I ended up watching in reverse order.

    On a related note, am I right in thinking that this Knots episode was Eric Farlow's first appearance (on either show) as Christopher? And if so, is there a big question mark over his first canonical appearance?



    Likewise, within those things I view as canon there's still a hierarchy of those things that I view as true canon and those that are lower down the chain. I just wish I was as creative as Snarky with the headcanon stuff to make sense of nonsense.
     

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