THE THEMESPixelated Gong Gong

How do we find meaning in a chaotic life? Daniels explore four core themes in the film: 1) nihilism, 2) absurdism, 3) generational trauma, and 4) generational love.

Click on the toggles below to learn more about the themes.

Nihilism is a philosophy that life is meaningless. In the film, Joy is tired of Evelyn's inability to pay attention. Joy reaches her breaking point and becomes Jobu Tupacki. Jobu searches the multiverse for the "right" Evelyn who shares her unhappiness with life and is willing to kill anyone who stands in her way. Joy creates her "Everything Bagel," a tool that sucks everything into oblivion to make all her pain go away. Nearly halfway into the film, Joy/Jobu summarizes this theme by saying, “Nothing matters… If nothing matters, then all the pain and guilt you feel for making nothing of your life, it goes away. Sucked into a bagel” [1:01:02].

Absurdism is the belief that even though our existence is pointless, people can still find meaning in life. In the film, Waymond fully embraces absurdism using an unlikely superpower that holds the family together amidst the chaos: kindness. Waymond’s googly eyes are a visual contrast to what the Everything Bagel represents, having a black center surrounded by white. In the beginning, Evelyn rips off his googly eyes and says, “Sometimes I wonder how he would have survived without me.” [0:08:04] Later, Waymond tells her, “When I choose to see the good side of things, I'm not being naive… It is strategic and necessary. It's how I've learned to survive through everything” [1:45:43].

In the movie, generational trauma was caused by high expectations and a lack of empathy between Gong Gong, Evelyn, and Joy. In a flashback, Gong Gong says to young Evelyn, “If you abandon this family for that silly boy, then we will abandon you. You are not my daughter anymore” [0:14:24]. This moment shapes the rest of their relationship. Decades later, Evelyn still tries to please Gong Gong despite his constant statements of disapproval like “Hmph. Another laundromat” [0:12:41] or “Little girl. Always running away. Never finishing what you started” [0:25:56]. Since this is the only example of parenting she knows, Evelyn treats Waymond and Joy with the same emotional distance.

Evelyn eventually breaks the cycle of generational trauma by choosing to treat everyone with love, empathy, and acceptance. She tells Gong Gong, “I am no longer willing to do to my daughter what you did to me… It's okay if you can't be proud of me. Because I finally am. You may see in her all of your greatest fears squeezed into one person… But now I see. It's okay that she's a mess” [1:59:43]. Daniel Kwan explains, “If progress is to happen, the older generation has to be willing to listen… And the young generation will have to be kind and patient.”


This timeline shows when each character spoke throughout the film. Click on the themes above the graph to filter. Hover over the bars to see more details.

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A black Everything Bagel from the film Everything Everywhere All at Once