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Willem Dafoe's in 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'?! You don't need to be psychic to guess that.

Movies

Willem Dafoe’s in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’?! You don’t need to be psychic to guess that.

Entertainment rumor sites are actually a lot like psychic mediums.

FINALLY, the first trailer for the December-releasing film, Spider-Man: No Way Home is here, and the hype train kicked off with a bang — or, rather, a bomb. A PUMPKIN BOMB! The rumor sites were right; Willem Dafoe really is coming back as the Green Goblin!

Well, maybe. So far we’ve seen a bomb and heard a laugh, and that’s it. Maybe they’re not from Dafoe’s original cinematic Green Goblin — it could be James Franco or Dane DeHaan as either Harry Osborn, or Marvel/Sony might have recast entirely.

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One thing’s for sure, and that’s if we DON’T get Dafoe back, the rumor sites will make some kind of excuse that plans changed, or the schedule didn’t work, or something.

And wait, with Alfred Molina as Dr. Octopus and Jamie Foxx as Electro already confirmed, how big of a leap is it REALLY to think Dafoe might reprise his role, too?  Even if the rumor sites are “right,” couldn’t they have done like the rest of us and just … guessed that?

Dafoe in Spider-Man: No Way Home?!

When you start to think about it, entertainment rumor sites have a lot in common with supposed psychics, and probably utilize a lot of the same tactics. Such as:

  • I Want to Believe: Who DOESN’T want Dafoe back as the Green Goblin?! We’re motivated to believe it because we WANT it to be true. Just like if a tarot card reader predicts great success in our future, or if a “medium” assures us that our dead loved ones are at peace.
  • “Shotgun Effect”: As paranormal investigator Benjamin Radford says, “If you make enough guesses, you will be right eventually.” Like any good clickbait farm, rumor sites churn out tons of articles every day, ensuring that some of them will appear to be “right” just by random chance. Kind of like how a TV medium will rattle off a bunch of letters until someone in the audience says something like, “My grandfather’s name started with the letter T!”
  • Confirmation Bias: A fancy way of saying “remembering the hits and forgetting the misses.” We all tend to do it, and rumor sites and psychics rely on it to complete the shotgun effect.
  • The Easy Guess: Like I said above, Dafoe’s inclusion in Spider-Man: No Way Home isn’t exactly a longshot possibility, given what we already know, and we probably shouldn’t give rumor sites too much credit if it happens. Psychic detectives will often do the same thing, saying, for example, that a body will be found near water. There’s a lot of water out there, and most killers dispose of the evidence in non-urban areas, so yes, a LOT of bodies are found near water. Not really helpful.

Of course, sometimes a rumor site will really reach, like when one, during the lead-up to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, “reported” that everyone’s favorite Bryan Cranston was a lock to play the role of bald baddie Lex Luthor. We all wanted it to be true, even the legit outlets, who took the idea and ran with it, despite the original rumor site not even providing a source. Of course it didn’t pan out, and we were stuck with Jesse Eisenberg instead.

Okay, so what? We all had a little fun speculating and hoping before being brought down to Earth; what’s the big deal? People invested time in “covering” the false report. Folks with Warner Brothers stock might have taken a hit if the real casting was later seen as a disappointment. There’s no telling what effect the boom and bust had on the careers of those involved. And maybe worst of all, the rumor site was rewarded for making sh*t up.

Willem Dafoe's in 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'?! You don't need to be psychic to guess that.

What a buzzkill.

It’s an even bigger deal when “psychics” do it, giving people false hope and often directly taking their money. But the existence and prominence of rumor sites still contribute to the overall mistrust of media in general, spurring people to think they can’t believe anything on the internet, or even going the opposite way — thinking that if it’s been “reported,” it must be true.

It can be easy to forget that not everyone’s in the same “comics bubble” that a lot of us are. You do this for long enough, and knowing which sites are reliable and which aren’t almost becomes second nature. If that doesn’t describe you, or you’d like to help out your less plugged-in friends, here are some tips for separating the likely from the bogus:

  • Know the Good Ones: When it comes to comic book movie news, you probably shouldn’t trust anyone besides OG institutions like Variety, Deadline, and The Hollywood Reporter. Be very skeptical of those who doesn’t cite their sources. Even the OGs do that sometimes, but their track record is a lot better than that of comixnewz69.biz.
  • Take a Look at the Track Record!: Go ahead and look at their past stories to see what they’ve gotten right, and if they’ve provided any (good) explanation for what they’ve gotten wrong. Check their sources again — are they anonymous more often than not? Doesn’t that lack of accountability seem convenient?
  • Hold Them Accountable!: Don’t let them off the hook and continue to follow them if they dumbly make a bold, specific prediction that doesn’t come true. MCU mastermind Kevin Feige has very dim opinions of anything that didn’t originate in his office, so Charlie Cox playing Daredevil in No Way Home or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Gemma Simmons appearing in Secret Invasion are pretty big leaps. When they don’t happen, remember the people who told you they would.
  • Don’t Let Them Retrofit!: If you really want to nail some asses to walls, you can do what journalist Gene Emery has done for many years with psychic predictions, in the magazine Skeptical Inquirer. Take a year’s worth of predictions, and see which ones came true. Also check to see the big stories their super-inside sources FAILED to report on. It might be even more useful to take current predictions and really define what they mean now, before people try to fit them to a later event that only sort of resembles what was originally forecast.

We all get suckered sometimes. There’s more medical advice online than porn right now, and most of it’s garbage — a fact even more salient and painful during the COVID-19 pandemic. But if you keep these things in mind, you might be able to navigate the misinformation minefield a little more successfully, whether you’re reading about comic book movies, or other things.

AIPT Science is co-presented by AIPT and the New York City Skeptics.

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