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.
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.
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.