My Professor Whined About the Meaning Behind a Cowboy Bebop Sticker on My Laptop.
You're Gonna Carry That WeightClick thumbnail to view full-size
My professor proclaimed I didn’t know the meaning behind a sticker on the back of my laptop. I sat down one day for class and was typing something for school on my computer when he interrupted me to ask me if I knew what the sticker was from. I gave him a blank look at first then realized my sticker must not only be from Cowboy Bebop, but taken from another work. So I said, I’m sure it’s from something but this is in reference to Cowboy Bebop. Cowboy what? he asked incredulously as not a question but a dismissive admonition of what I’d said. Cowboy Bebop, I repeated. No, no, no, he insisted. That’s a Beatles song. He proceeded to educate me by playing “You’re Gonna Carry That Weight” and lecturing for half an hour into class on Beatles history.
I didn’t need to know it was a Beatles song.
As difficult as it is to say, no one needs to know the original material referenced in a work you care about. Just because you like a reference which has been repurposed in a newer work doesn’t mean you care about the original work it is taken from. It’s difficult because sometimes the original work is genuinely better than the newer. Take Darling in the Franxx and Neon Genesis Evangelion for example. Darling in the Franxx is a disgustingly paltry attempt at imitating the cosmic terror of existentialism aptly portrayed and explored in Neon Genesis Evangelion. My misfortune in having heard someone say Darling in the Franxx is the apex of what Neon Genesis Evangelion was trying to achieve is ineffable; for that same person to say Neon Genesis Evangelion was a product of its time is unforgivable to me, yet the person saying that doesn’t have to care.
However, there’s a difference between one show ripping off the entirety of another, and purposing an element of an original work to create a completely new meaning for another.
“You’re Gonna Carry that Weight” is by the Beatles. Perhaps it has some personal meaning to someone out there and perhaps the lyrics stand for or allude to something, but that song was re-purposed in Cowboy Bebop and became a new creation. At the end of every episode, the screen says “See You, Space Cowboy,” but that changes with the last episode. The last episode is the most powerful of the series, and the words “You’re Gonna Carry That Weight” reflect that, framing the show’s message perfectly. Cowboy Bebop tackles deep seated persoanl regrets and difficulties opening up to others. However, I recommend exploring its message with Digibro and Channel Criswell.
The function of the song title “You’re Gonna Carry That Weight” changes to reflect the meaning of the show: a meaning independent of the source material. Yes, listening to the song enriches and deepens our understanding of Cowboy Bebop, providing the insight for why the specific words “You’re Gonna Carry That Weight” were chosen in place of “See You, Space Cowboy,” but it’s unnecessary.
Finding out the last words of the show is a Beatles song in no way compels the viewer’s interpretation.
This gets to a larger point. Just because I didn’t know the sticker’s reference doesn’t mean I don’t know what the the sticker means. So my professor can imply I don’t, but it’s not like there isn’t a work he’s too been exposed to he doesn’t know the original source material for.
My sticker isn’t first and foremost a Beatles reference. It’s a Cowboy Bebop reference in the Cowboy Bebop font, and its connection to the Beatles doesn't undo its own identity as the last words of the series.
How do you address someone like my professor?
We all know it's hard listening to a friend or colleague importuning you to devoutly proselytize yourself before the all-great creator of that thing you know from your favorite modern media. "Woe!" Your friend may say. "Shakespeare did that!" and "fie" another may moan. "The Simpsons did it first!" But you're not into lamenting the same way they are. If you or someone you know is playing hipster Nazi, demanding you pay attention to their superior knowledge of the genesis of the content you take interest in, subtly let them know you don't care by saying you'll think about it. If you'd rather not put up with it, tell the person, "hey, maybe we can continue the conversation some other time. I've got something on my mind I've been meaning to deal with today and now's opportune." That person is going to let you do your thing.
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