Cowboy Bebop fans around the world were equal parts excited and skeptical when news came of Netflix’s live-action remake of the space western anime series. Just from its opening with the iconic jazzy music, fans can tell this reboot promises to capitalize on nostalgia from the original series.
The first episode of the live-action series loosely follows the storyline of the original pilot. However, several deviations permit more screen time to introduce our space cowboys, Spike Spiegel and Jet Black. Notably, femme fatale Faye Valentine makes her entrance in the premiere as well.
A recognizable character from the anime, Faye, is a bounty hunter who lives by her wits and travels through space with her trademark purple hair, snazzy yellow outfit and white go-go boots.
Voiced by Megumi Hayashibara in the 1998 anime and played by Daniella Pineda in the 2021 live-action series, Faye Valentine continues to be an iconic character of the Cowboy Bebop franchise. She represents a kick-ass woman character in the anime and science fiction genres.
This article critically compares Valentine’s original introduction in the 1990s to her initial appearance in the new 2021 reboot series, examining the translation of her character from 2D to 3D after 23 years.
Faye Valentine makes her on-screen debut in the anime’s third episode titled “Honky Tonk Women.” As she strolls into a store in the opening scene, the camera angles suggestively, emphasizing her legs, neck and backside. Faye leans over the counter for the proprietor to light her cigarette as she loads her semi-automatic weapon.
She then pivots to face off with a group of armed men outside as she delivers one of her first and likely most iconic lines “You know the first rule in combat? To get the first attack.”
Though highly sexualized for the male gaze in the 1990s, Faye Valentine is not a woman to be messed with. Her precariously buttoned top and exposed midriff do not appear to stop her from doing anything that the male characters can: fire a gun, pilot a spaceship and escape a sticky situation. She is every bit as skilled and determined as her male bounty hunter counterparts.
In the 2021 live-action series, Faye also enters the picture wielding a gun, though this time, it is pointed at the back of Spike’s head as he is trying to gather information on a bounty target. Unbeknownst to Spike, the woman he is talking to, Katerina, is, in fact, Faye’s mark, and he has gotten in her way. Valentine interrupts Spike’s flirtatious interview, mockingly remarking, “Wow. Those are some real pretty words there, cowboy. Does that sh*t work on all the girls?”
Faye’s sarcastic tone and frequent use of colorful metaphors match her character’s original quick-witted comebacks, even if her word choice is more poignant (nothing wrong with that). However, it is unfortunate that after her incredible line proceeding a hailstorm of bullets in her anime debut, which established her character as knowledgeable and dangerous, her dialogue to Spike about his love life is cheeky but falls flat in comparison.
Why should her first words be about the male protagonist instead of the dialogue adding to her characterization?
Faye’s costume in the new series is slightly more conservative, likely for practicality’s sake, with a zip-up yellow bodice under a red leather jacket. She also sports new jean shorts, leggings and more practical black boots.
The costume is still very much reminiscent of the original character design, especially with her purple bob. However, the actor can move more quickly and has more practical elements to her ensemble that reflect her occupational needs (Seriously, where did she put all her weapons in the anime?).
During Valentine’s initial scene, the new series interestingly gives Katarina’s character her background as an emancipated daughter of a wealthy businessman.
However, the resulting fight between the bounty hunters over Katerina predictably allows her and her boyfriend, Asimov, to escape. In this physical exchange between Spike and Faye, both characters’ abilities match, though she is somehow abducted and ends up cuffed in the Bebop‘s toilet.
Like in the live-action series, Faye and Spike have an antagonistic first encounter. Instead of a fistfight, they play an intriguing game of cat and mouse over a poker table as Faye tries to secure a valuable asset from the unwitting cowboy. Though viewers never see them tousle, Spike and Jet eventually capture Valentine and get her to tell them her scheme. Even though she is intelligent and strategic, Faye is outnumbered and quickly overtaken by the other two hunters.
In both the old and new Cowboy Bebop series, Faye’s depicted as being sharp-witted and resourceful. Handcuffed in the Bebop toilet, she can escape the bounty hunters on her own. In the anime, she steals back her ship and escapes, whereas, in the live-action version, she arms herself and jumps back into the fray, saving Jet’s life in a shootout.
Another notable difference from a feminist perspective is that in the updated version, Faye’s character can equally dish out insults as she is to receive them. Having the male protagonists describe Faye disparagingly (the only main woman character at this point) as a “yappy woman,” and a “wench” in the 1990s version comes across as tone-deaf.
Though Faye’s characterization isn’t always more flattering in the 2021 series, her language is a bit more of an equalizer in that she calls Spike nicknames like “boy-toy” and has no problem telling all of the other characters to “f*ck off.”
Analyzing her character’s initial dialogue, costuming and relationships with the male protagonists of Cowboy Bebop, Faye Valentine’s character continues to hold her own as a cunning bounty hunter in her own right. Though sexist elements are present in her introduction in both series, Faye’s character continues to represent an empowered self-made woman of the future. Just as when she first appeared in 1998, viewers of the reboot series are anxiously awaiting Faye Valentine’s next adventure.
See you later, space cowgirl…
What are your favorite things about Faye Valentine? Sound off in the comments below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kaja Gjelde (she/her/hers) is a Sami-American writer and researcher with an MA in Indigenous Studies. Gjelde is a life-long Trekkie, feminist and linguaphile who lives a semi-nomadic lifestyle with her Norwegian Lundehund. You can find her on Twitter asTrekker Nan (@KGjelde).
This article was originally published on 11/29/21
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