In Field of Dreams (1989), the voice Ray Kinsella hears famously says "If you build it, he will come." When interpreting films (or any art work) the voice seems to say "If you look for it, you will find it." If you are looking for something in particular, chances are that you will find it, regardless of whether it is there or not. You see this all the time, in authorship studies, in feminist studies, in genre studies, in race studies, in queer studies and so on and so forth. This is what I would like to call subtext creep, inspired by the concept of mission creep. Mission creep is the idea that once you've began a project (particularly military operations) it inevitably escalates in different ways, becoming more costly, time-consuming and elaborate. In cinema studies, what I mean with subtext creep is that the subtext, or meaning or message, you're looking for becomes more or less ubiquitous and can obliterate all other potential, and potentially contradictory, subtexts, and that whatever subtexts is the focus of the study will inevitably be "discovered". You might develop selective blindness, becoming unable, or unwilling, to see other possibilities or other interpretations. This can (and does) happen in must fields of cinema studies. Possibly most scholars have at some point made the same mistakes, myself included.
There are several problems involved with this. It is easy to make generalised statements about things that are not really there, or making it out that all films are the same. There are a lot of problematic representations (conscious or unconscious) of Hispanics in American cinema, with films being condescending and even racist. Should I go looking for anti-Hispanic sentiments in American cinema I could, if I wanted to, find it in any film, even those that made no reference to Hispanics whatsoever, because I could argue that it would be a case of ignoring them, making them invisible. But by making all American films out to be anti-Hispanic (because clearly they cannot be) I would belittle the real problems, the really problematic films, and make the analysis less nuanced, or perhaps without any kind of nuance. Subtext creep is problematic enough when it happens in the study of genres, authors and movements but it is when talking about politics, such as representations of minorities, that it becomes a really serious problem.
So these two things go hand in hand, the ease by which you can sway people that a certain scene means a certain thing, and the dangers of finding the thing that you are looking for, only because you are looking for it, not because it is necessarily there. I once read an essay that said that all war films have a gay subtext. Yes, that all war films have a gay subtext. One might wonder why stop at war films, why not just say that all films have a gay subtext.
The point is not to stop looking for subtexts. Some go in the opposite direction and denies or ridicules any possible subtext. When Brokeback Mountain (2005) came out many critics said that this was the first western with a gay theme. That is obviously not true, many a western do have a gay subtext. So, we should explore and interpret subtexts, but stay clear of subtext creep. To step back, to calm down, not fall victims to groupthink (it is possible even as a lone person to succumb to a solitary equivalent of groupthink), but instead question what you watch, what you read and what the lecturer tells you. Even if, for example, a particular scene seems to suggest a certain meaning, how does it compare with the rest of the film? And if you always find what you're looking for, don't nod your head and think "Just what I thought!" but shake your head and think "Is this really plausible?"
I sometimes wonder about this obsession with subtexts. For one thing, it seems to me that sometimes what is called subtext might actually be just the text. Some studies of Douglas Sirk's films suggest this confusion. I think that the hunt for subtexts sometimes stems from a conspiratorial state of mind, and sometimes because of a mistaken belief that it is subtext that makes for artistic and intellectual legitimacy.