Raising the Brow: B-Movie Goodness in Cowboy Bebop 07 “Heavy Metal Queen”

cowboy_bebop_remastered_07[h264.ac3][niizk].mkv_snapshot_12.14_[2011.07.24_13.27.29]

[Cowboy Bebop Episode 06]

B-Movies are “lowbrow” entertainment, Cowboy Bebop isn’t. It’s not highbrow entertainment as some may be tempted to classify Kon Satoshi, or perhaps Miyazaki Hayao/Studio Ghibli films. I hesitate to use the term “middlebrow” because it is generally used negatively or even derisively, for people or works who “put on highbrow airs” while remaining populist and accessible. Put in a clumsier way, it’s a kind of pretentiousness. But I will use it here for Cowboy Bebop, not only because it has excellent episodes “to balance” lowbrow content as one would classify “Heavy Metal Queen” of being, but rather because the execution of this episode is on a high level.

It knows it’s being pulpy, it knows it’s using widely panned material, and yet it turns it into itself, as by now Cowboy Bebop is this hard luck, non-sob story with at times intense action and wry laughs, without being a parody, without deep-frying itself in a vat of ironic lard. It’s the kind of show where Spike and Faye have to steal the show from the “guest character” VT who carried the episode. Balls.

This movie is so widely panned I won’t even watch it, especially just to establish a reference. In any case, this crap is turned to gold in this ep.

You got space cowboys, why not space truckers? Dogfights with space fighters? How about Space Truck dogfights? Oh yeah baby! VT plays the rough trucking driver very well, including toughness, cleverness, and daring. The only thing different is that she is both a woman, and  a macho legend. Perhaps she’s softened by the fact that she’s the wife of the greatest cowboy legend, but not really because nobody figured this out except Spike.

This figuring out lends to the dynamic of cowboys being the dregs of society. They’re no-good lowlifes preying on no-good lowlifes. Cowboys don’t regularly take on the likes of Vicious and organized crime in general. Mac’s Diner is the low-end dive where the cowboys hang out, where Spike was nursing his hangover, and interestingly where VT is a regular (despite a very public display of disapproval against cowboys altogether). There seems to be several hundred thousand such bounty hunters, against so few bounties every week. I mean, how many bounties are there worth millions of Wulongs? It’s not difficult to imagine the whole class as bottom-feeders.

This is why Spike “earning the respect” of VT, and somehow “putting her in her place” as the wife of the Legendary Cowboy, as opposed to being her own legend as a space trucker, has to be put into perspective as well: Spike is cool, Faye is fail (albeit hawt), Jet doesn’t get anything accomplished except clean after their shit, and all the other cowboys are nothing to sing about. Space Trucking is a far more dignified profession, as well as steady, and consistently functional. Spike had to steal the show back from her, because the show isn’t Trucker Heavy Metal Queen, it’s Cowboy Bebop.

Then again, Spike and Faye are really just moonlighting as cowboys aren’t they?

The space road to the references

This time I find it exceedingly interesting. The song Space Truckin’ is from the band Deep Purple’s Machine Head album (regarded by some as one of the foundations of what would become heavy metal music). The supporting tour for this album included a stop in Tokyo, where the band ended up recording one of the great live albums in Rock history.

The irony in this is that the band purposely called the live album Made in Japan, cheekily referencing how during that time (60s-70s) anything made in Japan was synonymous to crap quality.

I’ve no problem associating the song and the film with this episode. Of course, I could be totally wrong and it’s actually this song:

I prefer to think that it’s the prior track. It’s just as awesome as having the bounty be a complete reference to Woody Allen, who to me is a great example of middlebrow cinema: very intelligent, mildly entertaining, and at times (Annie Hall), genius; a heavy metal version space trucker arsonist terrorist Woody Allen (a famous Jew). Cowboy Bebop continues to outdo itself with its Easter Eggs, even if they make a show of it falling on Spike’s crotch.

image

I don’t imagine how Woody Allen would ever associate himself with something like Space Truckers, but I don’t think he should feel too bad about his ‘cameo’ here in Cowboy Bebop. I love it how he gets himself killed, robbing Spike and Faye of another bounty payday.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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14 Responses to Raising the Brow: B-Movie Goodness in Cowboy Bebop 07 “Heavy Metal Queen”

  1. Karry says:

    “Woody Allen…..very intelligent”

    Really ? I guess human-sized giant tit shooting milk at people is very intelligent and “middlebrow” now, huh…learn something everyday…

  2. Best thing about this ep for me is the amazing heavy metal song that the heavy metal queen is always blasting. It sounds like Loudness or something, but oh, it’s Masaaki fucking Endo, so much winnnnn.

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  4. megaroad1 says:

    Heavy Meetttaalll! Yoko Kanno really covers all ground musically in Bebop.

    The Space Truckers trailer you have up there leaves me lost for words. And is that Space Battleship Yamato they’re blowing up at 1:09??

    The Woody Allen reference has always made me laugh. Talk about a guy who looks out of place int the Bebop universe. And they really want you to get the hint. There is little subtlety in this one. Besides the obvious physical resemblance between Decker and Woody Allen (as well as the same nervous energy), the fact that the diner Faye finds him in is called Woody’s is just piling obvious upon obvious.

    This episode is absolutely thick with references. My favourite has to be the call signs/names of the 3 truckers that VT talks to while trying to find Decker. “Spider Mike”, “Love Machine” and “Sneaky Snake” are all names of characters from perhaps the most famous truckin’ movie of all, namely Convoy directed by the great Sam Peckinpah.

    • I think Kanno didn’t have any orchestral arrangements for the whole of Cowboy Bebop, a purposeful omission I think. The only thing that comes close is the Ave Maria track in “Ballad of Fallen Angels.”

      Wow, I didn’t know about Convoy. Thanks for sharing it. If you can share a trailer and/or writeups I’ll appreciate it.

      • megaroad1 says:

        The movie basically about a trucker called Rubber Duck who is tired of the harrassment truckers receive from ‘dirty’ cops. After a bar fight with some police officers, him and his buddies try to flee for the state border and whilst they’re driving ,other truckers join them until their convoy is over a mile long. As such things escalate and the media, politicians and even the national guard intervene. Incidentally, its worth to mention for this blog that halfway through the film we are made aware that Rubber Duck is carrying some highly explosive cargo and hence cannot be stopped by force.

        I’ll try to post a link

        • Mitch H. says:

          It’s part of the great redneck automotive rebellion of the late Seventies, right? Along with Smokey and the Bandit, Used Cars, and probably a bunch more I’m not thinking of because I was like six at the time, and really didn’t care about anything other than Star Wars.

          The irony is that Woody Allen was the guy the rednecks were rebelling against, or at least, a banner-waver for that whole set – that pretentious dick who would hire Marshall McLuhan for a throwaway pseudo-intellectual gag – he was emblematic of the sort of people who would get hot under the collar about conceptual framing like “highbrow”/”lowbrow”/”middlebrow”.

          I dunno about “Heavy Metal Queen”. There’s something that didn’t quite gel about this episode, it just feels kind of rote.

          • If such an episode rich with fleshing out the mythos of the cowboy… excecuted at a high level in terms of animation, storyboarding, music and reference is rote… GIVE ME MORE.

        • THIS IS AWESOME. Thank you for enriching this discussion.

  5. Pingback: Cowboy Bebop Episode 08 “Waltz For Venus” and For the Love of Noir | We Remember Love

  6. Pingback: (Cowboy Bebop 1-7) Insert title of catechism song « Super Fanicom BS-X

  7. RG says:

    You caught the Japan reference for Deep Purple, but missed the parallel reference for Woody Allen. Woody’s first film is “What’s Up Tiger Lily”, which he made by re-dubbing with a comedy soundtrack what he explicitly describes as a crappy “made-in-Japan” gangster movie.

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