Does Anything Belong on a Bagel?
by Hien Le
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” (EEAO) centers around a Chinese housewife, Evelyn Wang (played by Michelle Yeoh), who has to stop the multiverse from collapsing due to the influence of an entity called, “The Everything Bagel.” A traditional everything bagel consists of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion, garlic, and salt, but “The Everything Bagel” from EEAO has literally everything on it. The film’s antagonist, Jobu Tupaki (Played by Stephanie Hsu) stated, “I got bored one day, then I put everything in a bagel…everything. All my hopes and dreams, my old report cards, every breed of dog, every personal ad on Craigslist…sesame…poppy seed…salt, and it collapsed in on itself. ‘Cause you see, when you really put everything on a bagel, it becomes this…the truth" (Figure 1). What people typically consume for a quick breakfast on the go has become something much greater. “The Bagel” represents one side of the philosophical debate within the film of existentialism versus nihilism—does everything truly matter at the end of the day?
Nihilism and existentialism are two philosophies that can be used interchangeably, but nihilism focuses on the pessimism of life while existentialism is more focused on the optimism of life (Jun). The film is centered around whether anything truly matters in life, as “The Bagel” was created by Jobu Tupaki because she wants to destroy the multiverse because she cannot find the meaning in life. Jobu Tupaki is the physical embodiment of Evelyn’s daughter, Joy’s depression and generational trauma, believing that creating a multiverse destroying weapon is the only way to bring her issues to Evelyn’s attention. Joy is nihilistic as she cannot see any part of her life as fulfilling anymore, with her being in a constant state of depression.
The inverse of “The Bagel'' is represented by the googly eyes seen throughout the film. With googly eyes being visually the inverse of “The Bagel,” it represents the philosophy of existentialism. From Waymond (Played by Ke Huy Quan) placing them everywhere around the laundromat to Evelyn wearing one at the climax of the movie (Figure 2), it shows that life can be hopeful even when everything has gone horribly. Waymond is the character that represents existentialism with his statement of, “So even though you have broken my heart yet again, I wanted to say… In another life, I would have really liked just doing laundry and taxes with you.” Waymond, even in a different universe with a broken heart, still looks on the bright side of life. Waymond and his kindness sees the world, even though full of chaos, there is still something worth living for and to enjoy every moment of it. Evelyn learns about Waymond’s weaponization of kindness and uses it to “defeat” Jobu by giving her a hug and extending her kindness. “The Bagel” is destroyed once Evelyn and Joy have a true heart-to-heart conversation about whether anything in life matters or not.
Everything Everywhere All at Once. Dir. The Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) Perf. Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis. A24, 2022 Streaming.
Jun, Y. (2022, November 8). “Everything Everywhere All at Once” Explains Existentialism vs. Nihilism. Medium. https://medium.com/illumination/everything-everywhere-all-at-once-explains-existentialism-vs-nihilism-ce5ee9e4000.