Meaning of NOTHING
There is no hierarchy of art.
By saying this i want to counteract the believe that any form of artistic posses a higher intrinsic value than another, when discussing art the prerequisite to find a mediums worth is often diluted to a measurement is dispose-ability.
A generalized perception that just one form to be cultivated that’s more necessary than it’s pit; and of course the conflict of cinema local television is where this nothing emerges most frequently.
The idea that television is an expendable form; i believe need to be eradicated because the anatomy if the television medium is endowed with methods of storytelling unobtainable in film.
For example the clearest benefit of a serialize story is length.
More than cinema televisions growing complexity over a longer lasting period.
The character isn’t confined to a two hour tail and their intricacies can blossom with patients, however what may not be instantly recognized as a crucial story telling device is episodic nature of television.
The consorting structure of three-act structures inside of a larger three-act structure much like chapter in a novel; can view a lyrical quality to a story where themes and ideas are found through repetition and reemergence.
Few shows have a reliance on this method of story telling, even fewer in which every episode will be circumscribed to unique story in universe.
Yet beneath the main narrative that constructs; is this melting pot of individual stories that we can discover the identity of Cowboy Bebop.
Can we as HUMANS find something in NOTHING
Find purpose beyond survival
These ontological thoughts that play go on to make-up the same existential drift our characters repeatedly find themselves in and is what is most significant for the journey of cowboy bebop.
I’ts science fiction setting following a crew of bounty hunters and their unique adventures is all peripheral; because when we dissect the whole piece rather than analyze each separate episode, the series becomes a metaphysical expression of how people over come their lives; particularly the lingering lives that comes along with it.
Bebop offers a unique poetry in the manner in which life plays itself out; is less than a liner path towards the goal for the haze we must venture through without any guidance.
Because the sad reality of bebop story is that our cast of characters are lost in the cosmos without any justification for why they live, other than to exist.
And the only recurring theme that provides any kind of motive for them is the reconciliation with ones past.
“ This is what i get for being too Gung Ho and running ahead of the game, you get the point”? ~ Jet ^ *
“I don’t want to do this Jet” ~Spike^ *
“Then why are you”? ~ Jet ^*
“Let’s just say my past is catching up to me” ~ Spike ^*
Why deliver it in such episodic fashion?
The continuing episodes rather than following a continuing arc is comprised of individual plots; weather they were hunting a chess master or a computer hacker; the basic formula for bebop remains consistent.
We’re introduced to a bounty the group pursues them and the episode concludes.
Admittedly this is a layman's description; because when we examine the evidence of cowboy bebop we discovered this episodic formula servicing something very transgressive.
Understanding it’s structure is the first step to understanding the meaning in Cowboy Bebop
Although each episode focuses on a new character or plot; the stories themselves have no direct association to the narratives to our main protagonists.
And although the colorful crew of Spike and company is the one consistent element of the series the real subjects of each episode are only view through their lenses.
Our characters are typically the secondary facets in the story presently unfolding, they’re either the obstacles that must be overcome or more often than not merely involved through circumstance.
“Hang onto this, meet me tonight; no tomorrow night at the cathedral on the edge of town”. ~ Rocco ^*
“What!? Hey wait!” ~ Spike^ *
Our protagonist are made to be distant from the events from the outside because as important as these stories might be to the subjects directly involved, to our characters these stories don’t matter.
Because of of our protagonist has a past they hold onto daily; a past ever present in their mind which isolates them to a world where only their concerns are relevant.
For the crew of the bebop; they yern for their own narrative to be addressed rather than serve as a background for the narratives of others.
They narrowed their view of the world to believe that nothing else could be more important; yet they don’t allow themselves the reality that they’re others who suffer through the same fate. And so the only survival tactic they can employ to overcome these feelings is to distance themselves from the personal strides of others stoicism.
“What! are you for real? we can’t land without them” ~ Miles ^*
“Oh well whatever happens, happens” ~ Spike ^*
The lack of affection and the side stepping of personal responsibility; spike and the rest of the crew utilize this “whatever happens, happens” approach. Not because they actually believe it but because it’s a replacement for for their avoidance of reality.
The truth that these strangers that they interact with are nothing more than reflections of themselves, humans that are willing to sacrifice everything for harmony and purpose in their lives.
Just as our protagonist can’t afford to form attachment to these unique characters; the same is also set for the subjects in question. They aren't concerned with the struggles of our protagonist because every person that we see is living in existence forged by their past and they would do anything to make things right.
Even though our characters recognize the struggle with ever person they encounter, they have to live their lives vicariously though others because their own is so empty.
“Empty time; it sounds good to call bounty hunting freelance work, but all that really means is that were self employed, so when there is no one to hunt, we have nothing; nothing to do nothing to live on”. ~ Jet^*
Because imagine living a life of regret; a life in which your past seems unfinished as though there were a piece missing and you have to find it.
Our characters are unable to live with purpose in the present because of their sorrows chaining them to their past, attached outcast that were once part of this world but now act as stray souls unable to form a connection inside themselves. Weather it’s Fay unable to remember her earlier years or Jet unable to fathom the loss of his previous life, our characters regrets manifest into indifference to the world surrounding them.
Every episode ends back with our crew just marking time; it’s as if the events that occur never happened, they already feel so distant and because of the series episodic nature; are never mentioned again. Our characters don’t want to acknowledge the hardships of others because they cant risk themselves opening up completely for fear of even further misery.
Their past is the priority and it’s hard to put anything else first when you already live with so much sorrow.
“I’m not going there to die, i’m going to find out if i’m really alive; i have to do it Fay”. ~ Spike^*
The constant search for purpose is the summary of our characters live which means an endless urge to impose meaning in each insignificant day-to-day moment.
Bertand Russell once described philosophy as a no mans land that which isn’t currently known and to me this is the most apropos description cowboy bebop’s depiction of how we journey through life.
Although saturated with ennui and silent moments of contemplation; the grandiose ideas dispensed through cowboy bebop are done in a manner that seems unfulfilling and almost incomplete: the characters don’t have answers they just hypothesize.
“Who am i? My Past? My Future? These are questions every human ask at least once in their life”. ~ Dr. Bacchus^*
Does the show work on the theory counting we’re all selfish?
“I’m going to go look for my woman, you can go look for the other one”. ~ Spike^*
Or does it propose a more humanistic view of us?
“What’s your price to keep this thing from leaking out to the press”? ~ Gate Corp CEO^*
“Just leave the old guy alone; call off the bounty hunters: that’s all we ask” ~Jet^*
These constant contradictions and questions suggest that any philosophy our characters implement is never consistent and it leads to the shows brutally honest reminder: that no matter how much we convince ourselves, the majority of our lives are live without purpose and there is no unifying belief that makes everything connect: the truth is often the simplest answer.
“But i still don’t know why it carved weird pictures of creatures and all:what in the world was that all about huh”? ~ Jet^*
“That’s easy, it was lonely so it drew some friends”. ~ Spike ^*
While the characters act as if though they keep searching: perhaps they will discover life’s greater purpose: because they fail to acknowledge that they’ve built an existence fused to their past, and until that point all they do is wait: wait endlessly for something or someone to make everything okay again: thus still fabricating an individual philosophy as a way to avoid this truth.
It’s an accurate depiction of the Human Race
We will do anything to find meaning in the meaninglessness because the truth of the matter is as humans we typically only have one goal in our minds: finding that one connection that makes us feel whole and everything up to that point if devoid of any true meaning.
Our characters want to feel connected but avoid the truth that their only objective is simply awaiting the confrontation with whatever spawn and emptiness they feel.
“Men only think about the past right before their death, as if they were searching frantically for proof that they were alive”. ~ Jet ^*
Eventually our main characters are confronted with their past and at these moments their behavior radically changes; much like the rest of the inhabitants within this universe they become willing to abandon everything in pursuit of it. The facility dissipates revealing their vulnerabilities and their true nature.
“You think i’m Vicious! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT VICIOUS IS!!!” ~Spike ^*
And this sudden 118 attitude tied to the episodic vision of the show reveals cowboy bebop’s true message to the audience.
We followed the stories of various characters which in a larger picture might first seem meaningless; however if we consider how this episodic former has started in the mind of our main character, it’s reflective of what most of our lives are: a singular sequence of unrelated events that factors indirectly.
The subjects of each episode serve as a separate entity to bebop’s overarching narrative: these unique characters that make up the catalog of the human experience completely contrast on impact ecstatic of our protagonist: the playful, the melancholic, the absurd.
Why such a division?
Because what cowboy bebop is: is a demonstration of the subject viewed by the outsider; a display of how the attitude of that surrounding us will affect our perceptions.
Our main characters were constantly surrounded by others who were able to confirm their past, while they were still searching for their own catharsis.
This aversion is that each episode isn’t circumscribed to it’s own universe; to our characters ever episode accumulated as one single event: creating a mindset in them that clearly that the past was something that had to be reconciled with.
To the audience we saw an episodic formula, to the characters it was all one giant episode: in each unique plot they saw a continuous unchangeable pattern as a different way people confront their lives and creates this mosaic in which our protagonist were able to gain an objective glimpse at the unpredictable nature of life to others; and one that will be reflected upon an almost grimace nostalgia.
“Oh Ed anything but blue”. ~ Fay^*
But when they themselves finally are able to confront their past, what happens if they no longer have the subjectivity because they view everything though a sole egocentric view; they finally become the subject of the story, something they had longed for through the entire series.
But then who becomes the outsider ?
At the finally of the series we’re greeted with the phrase “YOU’RE GONNA CARRY THAT WEIGHT”.
Originally Spike was our subject and the characters of each episode were his subjects: we watched spike watch others.
But when spike has no more subjects to view, he unconsciously becomes them: confronting his past with no concerns for others; and the show realizes that intern we have become spike, we’re the outsider finally watching a man confront his past unfiltered just as spike did.
This time we’re given the context as to why it’s so important for him to pursue it; and in it’s finally Cowboy Bebop demonstrates it’s grandest subversion by making us the focus.
Just as spike carried the weight of everyone he encountered, bebop asked us to do the same; view the entire work of art is presented us with the chronology of Spike’s story and ask’s (will we merely carry the burden of seeing someone confront their own past or will it be the catalyst we needed; and how we are to confront our own)?
Regardless of our choice nothing changes what we saw: nothing changes what happened, the past is going to stay with us; we’re going to carry that weight.
For me the entire message of cowboy bebop can be summed up at the end of the episode 22 Jupiter Jazz; our hero’s didn’t succeed in what they aimed to achieve and so they must wait, and until that next opportunity there is nothing more than survival.
There is nothing wrong with this.
Cowboy Bebop never displays pessimism in this lack of meaning in life: because it teaches us that although the universe doesn’t owe us purpose or hope, we’re still the creators of our own destiny.
Every single person you encounter has a past: has suffered more than just ourselves, but the truth is if we want to live a life where we create our own meaning; we must accept our past, because if we hold onto them they’ll chain us to a tunnel vision of life.
Even when this was explain outright to spike: he wouldn’t accept it.
“Yeah i understand, as if” ~Spike^*
Only after his confrontation did spike realize that all of our characters had to accept their past one way or another because it was the only way they could form their own destiny, but by then his choice had been made.
“Bang!” ~Spike ^*
The final image of bebop offers a sense of finality; as spike becomes immortalized through the mural of his dying image pictorialized is how he is remembered: and it truly shows he had nothing else to live for becoming so chained to his history when spikes objective was to confront his past and nothing more.
As we see the remaining characters continue to survive; just like how the subjects of each episode dealt with their past, the lives of the bebop crew continued.
No matter what your struggles are, everyone around us will carry on; surely that offers some kind of hope in life.
We each have our own stories to live, we cant let ourselves be shackled to our own sadness; there must be some closure however it may be achieved.
Once we’ve learned the acceptance of our past will we finally be able to live which ever life we please?
“See you space Cowboy” ~#*
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