Now, if you don’t know about The Berenstein Bears, they were a series of children’s books, and eventually a cartoon, created by Stan and Jan Berenstein. They focused on a family of bears, and did the usual educational children’s book/tv series thing. Simple enough. I remember them, vaguely, and I believe I owned a book or two when I was a kid. It’s been a while.
So what’s the problem?
They’re not The Berenstein Bears. They’ve never been The Berenstein Bears. Despite the fact that many others remember them as The Berenstein Bears, and I myself still pronounce their name as The Berenstein Bears, this is false. This is wrong.
They are The Berenstain Bears.
Now, from this seemingly minor oddity a number of rather major theories have developed across the intarwebs. Could it be that the discrepancy is evidence that at some point in the last two decades, we all “shifted into an almost indistinguishable parallel universe”? Or perhaps it’s the effect of a time-traveler messing with the past and changing the future…our present? You know, those wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey issues that this guy was concerned about:
Okay, it’s an odd little bit of Fortean fun, and your response to it all could lie anywhere on the spectrum from stoners mumbling “can’t deal with this right now” to anal retentive skeptics making “harumph!” noises. But it’s a great jumping off point for two of my favourite topics: firstly, the philosophical arguments over reality and perception (a la Philip K Dick storylines), and secondly, the modern-day creation of mythologies.
In the first instance, the arguments for ‘alternative world/timeline’ in this case are complicated by (a) in the former, the fact that there are many who *do* remember the books as ‘Berenstain’, and (b) in the latter, that any change to the timeline should also have changed everyone’s memories as well. But it does raise an interesting question: how would anything of this sort be scientifically provable, if the only ‘evidence’ for such changes were memories retained in consciousness, rather than the physical world?
I could show you a Google NGram (which shows the frequency of usage of words and phrases in books over the last couple of centuries) with Berenstain as the most often used spelling, but what does it prove if the timeline did in fact change?
In the second instance – the modern creation of mythologies – at the moment we’re watching one play out with the Berenst#in Bears Problem. People are spending serious hours hunting images down on the internet, looking through their wardrobes for old books, and asking their parents.
Some – most often those that grew up thinking of them as the Berenstein Bears, and cannot accept that it may have been Berenstain all this time – seriously feel that the alternative world/timeline theory is a possibility. Others (like myself) are enjoying the Fortean elements of this story, and are having some fun with it. And then some are taking that fun one step further, and creating fake ‘evidence’ to support the alternative world/timeline theories.
And now, as all that develops, the Berenst#in Bears Problem is starting to reach much larger audiences as it gets shared across social networks, and some individuals with larger follower counts become aware of it. Just yesterday musician El-P spent much of the day debating it with his 100,000+ followers on Twitter, taking many of them down the rabbit hole with him.
El-P also posted the following series of tweets, referring to the images at the top of this post:
ok. this is not a joke. the same page that had that pick of the simpons holding the “berenstain bears” 5 minutes ago. the one i posted…
El-P’s obviously joking. Or maybe someone played him real good. Or maybe some time traveler is hastily covering his tracks. It really doesn’t matter anymore, this myth is alive now, and we can expect it to take its place in the modern mythology pantheon with Slenderman and John Titor before too long.
Speaking of John Titor, does anyone know if he was involved in children’s book publishing at all…?