Earlier this week, NewStatesman dug into a bizarre phenomenon: hundreds of Redditors who have decided a Sinbad movie called Shazaam, in which the stand-up comic plays a genie, exists in spite of there being no real evidence that it does, and Sinbad himself denying it.
Shazaam is one of a number of apparent collective delusions being shared on the Mandela Effect subreddit, named for a popular shared misconception that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison.
Now, though, it may become a reality -- just so people will stop talking about it.
The NewStatesman story interviewed several Redditors who genuinely believed that they had seen the film or physically held a VHS copy in the '90s. Their claims were variously that the movie was recalled becuase Sinbad considered it an embarrassment; that the film was buried due to a lawsuit from DC Comics over their trademark for Shazam!; or that some kind of space/time anomaly had occurred and only THEY could remember that, at one point, the movie really did exist.
That last one is apparently a common explanation for "The Mandela Effect," and while it's a little sci-fi for most people's tastes, the claim is generally not a joke.
Apparently, these fans have been so determined to prove a negative for so long that it's frustrated Sinbad -- and after this week's story went live and thrust the "controversy" into the spotlight, he's been getting inundated with messages on Twitter.
Eventually, he just figured "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," and said he would make the movie "so we can close this chapter."
Okay for all you people who think I did a genie movie.. well haven’t done one YET , but I am going to do one so we can close this chapter— Sinbad (@sinbadbad) December 23, 2016
Obviously, Sinbad is a comedian, and it's easy to assume that he was joking -- but follow-up tweets and interactions with fans seem to indicate that he really does plan to make at least something -- although he seemed to respond positively to one fan's tweet that he should shoot a ten-minute short film on an iPhone, so don't get your hopes up too high for a feature-length production.
Even if it is a more traditional film, Sinbad told Twitter that he would be doing "something different," so it's unlikely he would try to adapt the movie imagined by Redditors -- not to mention the thorny legal questions that would raise if someone eventually came forward to claim they wrote much of what Reddit was remembering.
Outside of the "Shazaam truther" community on Reddit, the commonly-accepted explanation for this is that around the time Sinbad was a huge name in stand-up comedy and film in the '90s, Shaquille O'Neal -- often just going by "Shaq" -- was doing movies, too. In 1996, O'Neal played a genie in a film called Kazaam that sounds very similar to what many of the people interviewed in the NewStatesman article are describing as Sinbad's genie film.
So two African-American men with similar facial hair, both of whom went by only one name and were doing family-friendly movies around the same time? The idea that someone might make that mistake is understandable, even if the idea of hundreds of people collectively making the mistake seems bizarre. Certainly it doesn't win over some of those interviewed, who remembered Shazaam as coming earlier and thinking that Kazaam was a shameless rip-off of Shazaam.
Here's a bit of editorializing: In the mid-2000s, this writer managed a video store. During my time at Emerald City Video, I feel like I remember customers asking for this film and my being unable to find it. I likely would have believed in its existence, since I remember thinking when it was released that the Shaquille O'Neal movie felt like a riff on the '60s Hanna-Barbera cartoon Shazzan.