Fans of HBO's True Detective are an obsessive lot. Over the course of the show's 8-episode first season, bajillions of hours of productivity were wasted discussing, dissecting, and speculating about the show. Insane-sounding theories about the identity of the murderous Yellow King abounded, each with an insane-sounding premise that actually made sense if you just listen, guys, no seriously hear me out. The Louis XIV theory, the Lawn Mower theory, the Lovecraft theory, the Boat theory, The Maggie theory. The hidden crowns and spirals theory. But I've got one to beat them all. One that extends further than the show. The Every Movie Matthew McConaughey Has Ever Made Has Actually Been About Rust Cohle Theory. If you look for signs everywhere, you'll find them.
Laugh it up. Laugh it up all you want, Sir Chucklepants. But I've got compelling evidence from a small amount knowledge of Matthew McConaughey's catalog combined with a buzzy, paranoid mind suffering from the aftereffects of too much True Detective that leads me to believe that all these years, it was, in fact Rust Cohle starring in all these shitty movies. He was just undercover.
So join me. Follow my flat circle of insanity around and around in progressively smaller circles, like a lawn mower in a cemetery, until my True Detective superfandom collapses upon itself and forms an absurd singularity.
In this film, which in the life of Rust Cohle predates and of his True Detecting, a young holy man named Palmer Joss gets into philosophical arguments with Astronaut Jodie Foster about the nature of belief. This is where Rust learned to be pedantic. He changed his name from Palmer Joss to a much more detectivey name: Rust Cohle.
When this film was released, audiences received it as a breezy romcom — and why wouldn't they? —but time has revealed that the film is anything but breezy. This is the story of Rust Cohle's tragic courtship with his wife, played by Kate Hudson. On the movie's publicity materials and in the movie's most iconic scene, Hudson wears a yellow dress. A call-forward to The YELLOW King, obviously. SEE?!
Look out how they're standing — the angle between their bodies conjures images of the creepy "devil nets" that have appeared at all sorts of crime scenes in True Detective. The two seem to have trapped light between them, in much the same way the devil is believed to be trapped in the rudimentary stick figures that are so ubiquitous in the show. I HAVEN'T BATHED IN DAYS.
Use of the color yellow is almost suffocating in this Rust Cohle film, which is a misguided comedic take on his failed marriage to Kate Hudson, who also is living one continuous life from one film to another.
An undercover Rust Cohle, pretending to be a dippy, preening California Angels player named Ben Williams, investigates drug use in professional baseball, only to believe that he is being propelled forward by magical angels that are giving him unexplained powers.
In later years, Rust will understand that it was the PCP.
[Yes, I know this movie came out before Contact and Fools Gold and How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. But, man, time is a flat circle. A flat, rotating circle on my HBOGo screen that reads LOADING.]
Upstart narcotics agent Rust Cohle is promoted and now investigates drug use among male sex workers under the lazy alias "Dallas," picked for the city from which his sting operation is based.
Note the color of Rust/Matthew's shirt during this scene, when "Dallas" is teaching a young colleague to dance all sexy and stuff. Also note the cross tattoo on Alex Pettyfer's chest, which could mean something to do with Reverend Tuttle or the abandoned church or SOMETHING TO DO WITH SATAN, GUYS. EVERYTHING MEANS SOMETHING.
On True Detective, we learn that Rust Cohle spent a fair amount of time in Texas, working narcotics. The film Dazed and Confused is about teens in Texas who do drugs on the last day of school. Checks out.
"David Wooderson," in addition to sounding like a name someone made up in a moment of weed-induced paranoia, is notably older than the teen characters in the film, once remarking that high school girls "stay the same age" even though he gets older. Possible ominous foreshadowing of the stasis of age in the face of death, like the murder victims in True Detective?
But this should give you shivers: Here's Wooderson in his iconic scene. Note he is standing in front of a yellow portion of sign that contains a flat circle, and his shirt features a Jesus-like face, not dissimilar to the face of the crucifix Rust Cohle hangs in his sparse 1995 apartment. Truly chilling.
Not only is Wooderson dropping clues left and right that he is actually Rust Cohle, he can't stop himself from dropping philosophical bon mots even though he's deep undercover.
Sweet, unblemished baby Rust. Things are going to take a dark turn.
More drug investigating in Texas. The whole AIDS thing was an elaborate Cohle-ian ruse.
Further, McConaughey plays a bull rider. Bulls have horns. Horns like Dora Lange.
A low-level Texas drug dealer named Chris hires a hit man named Joe (who is a cop, LIKE RUST COHLE) to murder his mother so that he can collect on her insurance. Joe is a cop who moonlights as a hit man, which is totally something I could see Rust Cohle doing. He's seen stuff. Scary stuff.
Two kids discover an eccentric guy named Mud living in a treed boat. Mud reportedly killed a guy in Texas (TEXAS IS WHERE RUST COHLE WAS!). It all fits.
"Love and waves, that's what we need in these dark days," say promotional materials for Surfer, Dude, a film about a surfer having an existential crisis about selling out.
This film explains how Rust Cohle and Marty Hart met — beneath a canopy of yellow, their golden crowns of yellow hair wreathing their tanned faces.
It also explains Rust Cohle's drug flashbacks.