Yeah, Its Gonna Suck: Netflix Cowboy Bebop (part II)
It started with them trying to get the dog wrong. That was our first warning. Next, came a picture of the crew of Bebop, and Faye Valentine was clearly dressed to discourage the male gaze, which is the total opposite of her character. The fans voiced their concern about this and the actress posted a snide and sneering video denigrating the fans of her show for not liking the new costume.
There is a lot more going on here than just an actress being an idiot in public. Let’s take a look.
Anime has no business being turned into live-action. Even the Japanese are bad at it. There are very few Japanese live-action versions that are anywhere near as good as the anime original. Americans have a much worse track record. I liked Alita but I never said it was flawless. Speed Racer was trying to do…something… I guess. Although, it obviously had too many problems to support whatever the hell it was trying to accomplish.
Regardless, for every earnest American live-action effort you have three disasters like Ghost in the Shell (Johansson), Fist of the North Star, or Netflix Death Note.
If you are making an animated film then you are telling a story that can’t really be told any other way. The art of animation is bringing something to the screen that a flesh and blood interpretation can’t equal.
So, why do they keep trying given this record of consistent failure? Because the property is well known. It’s the Popculture Blurring Effect. Anything that comes with a built-in audience gets put at the top of a producer’s inbox. Ultimately, they have to make something and who knows? It might make money. It might even be good.
Netflix Cowboy Bebop, however, won’t be good.
At almost a quarter-century old, Cowboy Bebop can rightfully be said to have stood the test of time. Produced in 1997, it was the last gasp of the Nineties Golden Age of Anime before the Asian Economic Meltdown brought high-quality productions to a halt. But it was a hell of a last gasp. Bebop was anime as high art. It had twenty-six episodes loosely following a Kishōtenketsu storyline with its attendant Nekama cast of characters.
Spike was the Leader, a former Yakuza (kind of) turned bounty hunter. Jet was the Tank, a former Cop turned bounty hunter, Edward, a somewhat autistic (I think) girl was the Brain, Ein the hyper-intelligent dog was the Heart and the Spike’s Rival was Faye Valentine. While she didn’t really want to take over as leader, she wasn’t accepting Spike’s leadership either.
The easiest way to explain their world is to follow the biography of Faye Valentine. She is physiologically in her early twenties but is chronologically seventy-seven when we first met her. Faye was a Zoomer born in the 1990s, when she was in her teens the first of the Astral Gates were built. The Astral Gates were hyperspace routes between the planets of the Solar System. So far none have been built in other star systems since you are limited to sub-light travel and have to reach a destination that way, to build one. Faye was a happy and outgoing girl, full of life. Very intelligent and hardworking. A Top Student.
When Faye turned 20, she and her parents went on a trip that ended in disaster. Faye’s parents were killed, and she was so badly injured she had to be put into Chyrosleep.
While she was chilling, the Astral Gate Accident happened. The Gate in orbit of the Earth catastrophically failed and vaporized a quarter of the Moon. The Lunar debris went into orbit around the Earth and started causing meteor showers that were as common as rainstorms. The population fell to 1.5 billion and the Earth became an uninhabitable backwater. Everyone that could do it, left for some colony or another in the Solar System.
Fifty-four years later Faye was revived by a couple of conmen. She had amnesia and her health insurance company hadn’t existed for decades. Which meant she had a debt of 300,000,000 Woolongs (Woolong is equal to a mid-Nineties Yen). One of the conmen pretended to be her lawyer and sets her up with a payment plan, so she could pay her debt in small increments. He also seduced her and convinced her that he loved her deeply. She returned his supposed affection, falling hard for him in earnest. The conman faked his own death and left all of his assets to her in his will. She accepted and then discovered that the only thing he had were debts of his own.
Unable to pay any of it and having finally figured out how deeply she had been betrayed, Faye opted for a life on the run.
Valentine ran small-time scams, constantly seizing any chance to make money. She dresses provocatively to seduce men but doesn’t want to be desired. She obviously has deep trust issues. She is an alcoholic who smokes like a chimney and is addicted to gambling. She is lazy and unhelpful to those around her, although that may just be part of her barriers against attachment. Her motto seems to be, abandon people before they can betray you.
Since she has skipped on her debts, she has a bounty of six million Woolong on her head. That means her biggest problem in life is the Cowboys. Cowboys are bounty hunters.
Which is how she first ran into the crew of the Bebop. Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, and their hyper-intelligent Welsh Corgi, Ein. At first, she escapes from them but then runs into them again when her ship runs out of fuel. She finally invites herself aboard the Bebop much to the irritation of Spike and Jet.
Faye is a very layered character. Both feminine and hard-edged. Her journey was coming to trust the crew of the Bebop and build a life among them. This was incredibly difficult for her and she occasionally ran out on them just to avoid being hurt by them. But she always came back to the Bebop, the one place in the Solar System where “when she had to go there, they had to take her in.” It was her home.
Anybody that really liked these characters couldn’t help but be concerned when Netflix announced it was making a live-action version of Cowboy Bebop. After Death Note, Netflix was deeply distrusted by the Anime community.
It started with them trying to get the dog wrong. That was our first warning. Instead of a Welsh Corgi, they were casting Ein as a Husky. That drew enough shrieks of outrage that the production company went, “fine, fine, the dog stays a Corgi.”
However, that revealed a major problem this production obviously had. They were getting notes from marketing that they couldn’t ignore. Whenever you do a list of most popular dog breeds, Huskies are invariably voted to the top of the list (by women who never had to deal with one). Marketing made that bad call.
Netflix has very Woke marketing. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that when Daniella Pineda shot her mouth off at the fans last week. It was with the complete blessing and encouragement of the Netflix marketing department. Kevin Smith did the same thing and outright said, he was safe to do it because he was covered from on high.
Now anybody who is intelligent enough to read this blog on the regular, probably finds this incomprehensibly stupid. But there actually is a method to this idiocy, however, it’s not a sane method.
The idea of having a built-in audience was what got the project off the ground. However, once things were far enough along for Marketing to get involved, the built-in audience was the first thing that had to go. Cowboy Bebop (or He-Man come to that) has a fan base in its late thirties to mid-fifties. They have to be replaced with a younger audience because their marketing textbooks have said so since 1952. (That was back when people in their Twenties had jobs instead of student loan debt).
The big buzzword in marketing right now is “story brand.” Make your customer the hero of your story. Your job as a marketer is to act as a guide for that customer-hero. You take the customer on a journey of identity transformation that will result in him/her buying your product because it’s now part of their identity.
Honestly, it’s good stuff but it all falls completely apart if you don’t know what a “hero” is. And marketers are way too Woke to understand what constitutes heroism. The closest thing they can get to is “the heroism of Michelle Obama,” or the “heroism of Greta Thunberg.” They have been trained since the age of six to view Leftwing Activism as being the same thing as heroism. Consequently, having your lead actress sneering at your show’s current audience for their blatant sexism seems like a great idea because it will result in a new younger audience whose identity is inextricably tied to your new Woke version of an old TV show. Pushing the old and undesirable audience away.
This actually works to a degree. The Twitter Stans are all excited for the show, Slate and Buzzfeed are giving them free publicity. Some Woklings will watch it on general principle. Not enough to make it a hit but enough that Marketing can point to them and say, our activity got results. It’s not our fault if you didn’t make a good show. True, Netflix is going to have another few thousand cancelations, but as Kevin Smith explicitly said, “Netflix don’t care about that.” Netflix is at the top of the heap and thinks it’s too big to fail.
In any event, I now have plenty of reason to not watch a show I wasn’t going to watch in the first place and enough motivation to visit my old friends on the original Cowboy Bebop. I’d forgotten how good that show was.
But as for the Netflix version.
Yeah, it’s gonna suck.