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Why do Cowboy Bebop characters talk like they're in a Joss Whedon show?

  • "What happens when fans of Joss Whedon grow up and start working in television and movies? Netflix’s remake of Cowboy Bebop," says Gita Jackson. "I can’t say for sure if the writers and showrunners on Bebop were, like I once was, huge fans of Buffy or Angel, the two shows that put Whedon on the map. Based on the way the characters speak, it sure sounds like it, though. Over the years, I’ve begun to notice more and more 'Whedonspeak,' as the phenomenon used to be called, in mainstream television and movies. Describing the qualities that make dialogue sound Whedonesque is now difficult though, because those qualities are ubiquitous." Jackson adds: "It’s difficult to overstate how influential that show has been, not just in terms of its portrayal of women in science fiction, but also because of the particular quirks of Whedon’s dialogue. Characters in Whedon’s shows talk a lot, and they talk in very particular ways. Characters are often imprecise in their language, letting sentences trail off as they struggle to articulate themselves. They turn nouns into verbs and vice versa. They say 'thing' or 'thingy' or 'stuff' in place of more descriptive terms. Often these characters metatextually comment on their surroundings or the environments they’re in, usually in a sarcastic or snarky way. The tone of this is pretty 'wink wink, nudge nudge,' as if the writers are speaking through the characters to the audience, rather than the characters commenting on the situation they are in...This is fine in Buffy, which is a show about teenagers in a heightened universe where vampires are real. When this style of dialogue shows up elsewhere, it’s not just incongruous, it feels lazy. The characters in Netflix’s remake of Cowboy Bebop talk in this way. It isn’t that the universe is more grim, it’s that the tone of the show, the actions of the characters, and the way that they all talk to each other don’t jive. Whedonspeak is all over Cowboy Bebop, especially whenever Faye Valentine talks. In particular, the scene when Faye is handcuffed to the Bebop’s toilet in its opening episode has that particular veneer of insincerity that is endemic to this style of dialogue, especially when it’s done badly. The characters aren’t talking to each other—they’re speaking in quips and asides, lines meant to make the audience laugh more than they’re meant to convey who these characters are."

    ALSO:

    • Cowboy Bebop isn't supposed to be good -- it works better viewed as a wacky fan fiction fever dream come to life: "Like many anime adaptations before it, Neo-Bebop’s sins are numerous, from the cringeworthy script to its awkward attempts at mimicking the animation’s original style," says Janus Rose. "Much of it is painful to watch if you’re coming from the source material, and you can find plenty of video essays on YouTube where fans dutifully pick apart the new series and compare scenes to their original counterparts. Everything is dissected, from the terrible writing and character backstories to the poor use of lighting during the iconic church duel between Spike Spiegel and his murderous former comrade Vicious. Like many anime adaptations before it, Neo-Bebop’s sins are numerous, from the cringeworthy script to its awkward attempts at mimicking the animation’s original style. Much of it is painful to watch if you’re coming from the source material, and you can find plenty of video essays on YouTube where fans dutifully pick apart the new series and compare scenes to their original counterparts. Everything is dissected, from the terrible writing and character backstories to the poor use of lighting during the iconic church duel between Spike Spiegel and his murderous former comrade Vicious. But decades after the original series left its mark, I simply couldn’t get mad at all these transgressions. I had a much better time watching the new Cowboy Bebop as a goofy, high-budget cosplay skit than wishing for it to be some high-minded and faithful adaptation. Instead of a slick and melancholy sci-fi tale, the new series is a wacky fanfiction.net fever dream come to life. At times this dynamic is so ridiculous it just works. John Cho and Mustafa Shakir have plenty of on-screen chemistry as Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, and their banter often manages to capture the original characters while punching through the tedious script. The 10 episodes frequently veer into 'so bad it’s good' territory, and I often found myself laughing through all the cringe and curious to see where the show would take my beloved space cowboys next. It’s not High Art, and I wouldn’t necessarily even call it 'Good.' But in its best moments, Netflix Bebop is a truly unhinged remix that puts classic characters through a nostalgic funhouse mirror you can’t look away from."
    • What Cowboy Bebop gets right (The Bebop Crew) and wrong (Radical Edward)
    • Cowboy Bebop showrunner André Nemec discusses the finale twist

    TOPICS: Cowboy Bebop, Netflix, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, André Nemec, Daniella Pineda, John Cho, Joss Whedon, Mustafa Shakir




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