Thursday, November 10, 2011

Are You Living in the Real World?

Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop would sign off each episode with a tagline in the lower right corner of the blackened screen at the end of the session credits.  The most usual one was "See You Space Cowboy," but there were others.  At the end of the movie, the tagline is a question - "Are You Living in the Real World?"  A deceptively simple question - Bebop is a show that explores Big Questions such as honor, family, responsibility, identity, and, yes, reality.  Do the shimmering golden butterflies mean that this world is the real one and that Beauty exists and matters or do they signify that the brain of the viewer has been compromised, that this world is merely a dream, and an awful one at that?

It's no secret that I like Bebop.  I think it's complex, richly nuanced and the vocal talents are spot-on.  (It also makes smoking look cool, but there it is.)  I'm using Bebop in the class to set up a discussion of space opera vs. space Western by having the students examine both Bebop and (next week) Serenity.  Common themes are woven throughout both but there are significant differences and departures as well, including the pacing.  Japanese films tend to be slower paced and to take more time to build than most American films - we like quick cuts and action, action, action!  (As an experiment, imagine Michael Bay being handed the script for Kurosawa's Ran, along with a budget of a hundred million dollars.  Now go put your head between your knees and breathe deeply - it never happened.  It'll all be okay.)

Over at the Rewatch, we've begun Season Seven.  Buffy discovers that Spike has a soul - the scene at the end of "Beneath You" is simply heartbreaking.  It was then and it remains so now.  Elizabeth Rambo explains it all - Buffy is a rich text, and it's well worth paying attention to what's being said by whom.  It's all connected.  Really.

Next week -  A double dose of Whedon as the film class takes on Serenity and the Rewatch continues with Season Seven.  See you in the real world, Space Cowboy!

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