I have never hidden the fact that I played a lot of video games and watched a ton of TV/movies in my youth. Before my parents upgraded to the elephant-sized satellite dish whose movements tracked broadcasting signals beamed down from some celestial satellite in the sky; we were stuck with the normal 80s and early 90s TV stations: CBS, Fox, NBC, and my favorite PBS. PBS wasn’t just the channel that entertained and educated me through Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood but PBS made me laugh. Shows like Are You Being Served? and Keeping Up Appearances caused me to wake up my parents multiple nights from the laughter that would come from my laughter that broke the quiet in the house. PBS brought me to sci-fi comedy shows like Red Dwarf and introduced me to a show that would become one of my favorites, Doctor Who. But after that giant satellite dish was planted in our backyard, I found a familiar face on HBO: Mr. Bean.
During the early 90s, my family stumbled across Mr. Bean, as the sketches would be released throughout the early 90s. The British sitcom, created by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson (the man that portrays Mr. Bean), was based on a character that Atkinson created while he was working on his master’s degree at Oxford University. The ‘child in a grown man’s body’ and his teddy are seen in the show solving various everyday problems while causing disruption with the unusual solutions to the seemingly simple tasks. Mr. Bean rarely speaks in the show and this adds to the hysterical interactions with the people around him.
During its five-year run, Mr. Bean only produced 15 episodes; but the show itself has not only has been sold in 245 territories worldwide, but it also inspired an animated cartoon spin-off and two feature films that found Atkinson reprising his role as Mr. Bean. Atkinson has appeared countless times as the Mr. Bean character in other venues: Countless sketches for Comic Relief, a performance at the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, and even a Snickers commercial. The show has definitely had its impact in the world of Pop Culture because the two most popular TV shows according to Facebook fan likes is The Simpsons and…you guessed it: Mr. Bean. Despite the show’s regular run ending over 20 years ago, Mr. Bean is the second most liked TV show on Facebook at 61.5 million as of 2015. Here’s some perspective…The Walking Dead, whom some in the Pop Culture community would consider one of the most popular shows has about half of the number of Facebook likes as Mr. Bean. And Game of Thrones has half of that!
So…besides my adoration for the show, what fuels this blog today you may ask? As I was re-watching the series for the umpteenth dozen time, a thought crept into my mind of which I had never even imagined. Who is Mr. Bean? Rowan Atkinson himself likened the Bean character to that of “…an 11-year-old boy who’s given the responsibilities of an adult but hasn’t learned better.” “There’s always this sort of feeling of a childlike innocence combined with childlike vindictiveness and selfishness and instinctive anarchy.” So what is the origin of this naive comic hero? Don’t laugh too hard at this or scoff too loudly but I think that Mr. Bean…is an alien.
Now I know that I might have lost some of you on this one but bear with me for a second. Just take for instance the opening credits of the show where Mr. Bean falls from the sky in a beam of light, while the fall is accompanied by the heavenly Southwark Cathedral Choir singing Ecce homo qui est faba which is translated as “Behold the man who is a bean”. Later episodes show Bean being dropped from the night sky in a deserted London street against the backdrop of the St Paul’s Cathedral. That’s not enough for you? How about at the end of episodes three and six, he is shown being sucked right back up into the sky in that same beam of light. Still not convinced? Well, even Atkinson himself admitted that Bean has a “slightly alien aspect to him”. In the animated series episode “Double Trouble”, the alien aspect of him was brought to light when he was sucked up into a ‘UFO’ with aliens who look exactly like him. At the end of the episode, he is even sent back ‘home’ in the same beam of light and similar accompanying choir-esque music.
Though Mr. Bean is never actually touted as being an extraterrestrial, the evidence is there to think about and adds another dimension to the character when you re-watch the episodes, imagining that the experiences are that of an alien…trying to live in an alien world. Or if he was a man whom aliens abducted, tested upon, and is again and again re-abducted for the aliens to best observe life on this alien planet. Many fan theories out there agree with my hypothesis and in a 1993 interview, Atkinson himself places more weight on the fan theory that Mr. Bean is, in fact, an alien. Atkinson explains that referring to the Bean character in an un-produced Mr. Bean episode,
“He sees this spaceship landing in a field and he stops the car. He looks up and suddenly the door (lowers) and this bright light comes out of the spaceship and a Mr. Bean walks out of the spaceship…and then another Mr. Bean and they all shake hands and then 25 more Mr. Beans all come out of the spaceship and pat him on the back and say ‘very nice to see you’. And then all the Mr. Beans go back up into the spaceship and the door goes up and that’s the end of Mr. Bean.”
Him being an alien could easily explain why everyday tasks like interacting with other humans, ordering food at a restaurant, driving around in his British Leyland Mini MK, or even going swimming are so hard for him. Either way, the humor of the show comes from the absurd solutions to our everyday problems and the complete disregard for the people around him when he solves these problems. Or better yet his pettiness or even the malevolence. So does it matter if Bean is an alien or not? Of course not, but since Atkinson admits that he’ll never retire the character, maybe a new Mr. Bean movie or possibly TV episodes will finally reveal the mystery behind the ‘man who is a bean’.
Mr. Bean and Teddy screenshot– Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12850641
Bean tag in Budapestby Metro Centric – Budapest, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53778477
Mr. Bean title shot by Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24330368
Rowan Atkinson by Gerhard Heeke – Photo taken by Gerhard Heeke., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=226929
Mr. Bean movie advertisement in Serbia by David Bailey from Laktasi, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53778490
Mr. Bean Cartoon image – Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2224196
Rowan Atkinson and Manneken Pis in Brussels by Antonio Zugaldia from Brussels, Belgium – cropped version ofDSC00220, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2757565
Mr Bean on a Mini by Nathan Wong – originally posted to Flickr as Mr Bean at Goodwood, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9681387