Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Take All That Away and What's Left?"


And with that exchange of lines, my conversion from casual fan to "this is something special and everyone should watch it" was cemented. Over at the Re-Watch this week, Steve Halfyard leads us through the musical feast that is the Season 2 finale "Becoming." If you're not going through this as a newbie, please also read the "spoiler forums" that follow the main posting. (On the other hand, if you ARE watching Buffy for the first time, take your time. You can only see it for the first time once and [trust me] it's worth savoring.) Confession - "Becoming, Part 2" is the first Buffy episode I ever saw and, while the above-referenced lines jumped me off the couch, a particular exchange between Giles and Xander* (characters whom, at the time, I did not know from Adam's house cat) made me want to stick around and see what happened.

Reel Two: Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we began exploring the "space Western" in class with a showing of the movie version of Cowboy Bebop. This film has so much going on! Leaving aside the detailed characterizations and depth of backgrounds, Bebop is also a great place to discuss sound in films for three reasons. First, in terms of the use of music - many different styles are presented, some underscore the onscreen action while in other places, the music serves as a counterpoint. Second, some of the music is diegetic (the characters, as well as the viewer, can hear the music) while in other places it is not. Third, as a Japanese film, it can spark a good discussion of the "dubbed vs. subtitle" debate.

I'm also finding it interesting I can easily locate links between my class films and the Re-Watch. Central to "Becoming" are the ideas of what we become, how knowledge influences our self-concepts and (most importantly) what we do with that information. In Bebop, characters are faced with those same dilemmas and viewers see that the answers matter. "Who am I?" and "What's important to me?" and (maybe most important to both "reels" this week) "What's my responsibility in this?" In "Becoming," Buffy (at least for a moment) fully embraces her identity of the Slayer - it's not a job, it's who she is. She's got people to protect and what she personally wants must be put aside to deal with what's right in front of her. In Bebop, Spike** protests as much as Queen Gertrude that he doesn't care about the sheep of the worlds, yet he fights mightily to protect a world of innocents who will never know what they were saved from.

Great stuff that makes you proud to be human.

* - Xander is playing hero and goes to rescue Giles. Finding him weak from torture and confused by Drusilla's mind tricks, Xander begins untying him. Giles thinks Xander's appearance is just another illusion. Giles: They get inside my head, make me see things I want." Xander looks him straight in the eye and applies unshakable logic to the situation: "Then why would they make you see me?"

** - Don't give me any guff about Watanabe's use of the name "Spike." I think there are some particular reasons for the name in Bebop. Timeline wise, Whedon's Billy Idol-ish Spike first appeared in late 1997 and Bebop first came out in 1998. That said, Bebop is animated, so that Spike was on the literal drawing board for a while. Whedon doesn't have a monopoly on cool tough guys named Spike, even if they both smoke like chimneys. Do I think there are links between Bebop and Whedon? Yep, and they come out in packs in Firefly.

No comments: