This article contains Everything Everywhere All at Once spoilers.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a film that fires several ideas at you a minute. Some of them are profound; some of them are surreal; some of them are outright ridiculous; and some of them are all three of those things, existing in a nebulous five-dimensional space. One of those ideas, resting at the very heart of the movie, is the Everything Bagel.
This existential enigma, first teased by Stephanie Hsu’s Jobu Tupaki persona, is an object whose ripples are felt throughout the film long before we learn what it is. From the movie’s very first scene, the black circle motif recurs and recurs again. It’s a black ring of marker pen drawn around a figure on a receipt; it’s the spinning of a laundromat’s dryer cycle; and it’s what the zealot followers of multi-versal villain Jobu Tupaki mark themselves with by placing a black ring on their foreheads.
The first glimpse we get of the Alphaverse shows an armored van driving through a landscape of wrecked cars, and the only clue as to what has happened is a discarded cardboard sign that reads “Hail Bagel.” Later when Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) and Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) find food, it is, of course, a selection of bagels.
But even once we learn what the “Everything Bagel” is, the motif keeps recurring in food, in background art, everywhere. What does it mean?
Make Me One With Everything
The bagel itself is revealed to us almost precisely an hour into the film. It is, as the name employs, simply a bagel with everything on it. Everything.
As Jobu Tupaki herself says, “All my hopes and dreams. My old report cards, every breed of dog, every last personal ad on Craigslist, sesame, poppy seed, salt, and it collapsed in on itself, because you see when you really put everything on a bagel, it becomes this. The truth. Nothing matters.”
It is, in short, a pun. A mid-level pun at best. It is also a MacGuffin, which is a term Alfred Hitchcock coined to describe any object that exists purely so your characters can chase after it. It also helped Everything Everywhere All at Once writers, Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, neatly step around some of the plot questions in the movie.
“We spent a while inventing the religion of the bagel followers. So many things didn’t stick. She’s a nihilist; should there be dogma? Should there be a book?” Scheinert told Vulture. “What should their practices be as a religion? The bagel stuck because it became such a useful, simple symbol that we could point to as filmmakers. And you don’t have to explain it much beyond the joke.”
The Theory of Everything (on a Bagel)
And yet, despite its first appearance as a gag name for a plot device, the Bagel with Everything On It actually has some pretty hefty theoretical physics behind it.
“There’s a scientific calculation you can do for any object in the universe called a Schwarzschild radius, an object that when you compress it down to that radius becomes a black hole. It becomes a singularity and it’s hypothetical. But the idea is, at a certain density, anything will become a black hole,” Kwan also told Vulture. “So everyone has their Schwarzschild radius. Wouldn’t it be funny if she did that to an everything bagel? Because this movie is about everything.”
Hence the appearance of the bagel itself, a big, sinister-looking black bagel that sucks everything in.
The physics of that idea checks out, mostly. Your Schwarzschild radius is smaller than the nucleus of an atom. So if all the matter in your body (or in that of a bagel) was compressed down to a size smaller than an atom, the density of that matter in one place would cause it to collapse in on itself.
The only catch is that a bagel-sized black hole, which is to say a bagel that had been compacted down below its Schwarzschild radius, wouldn’t suck in everything in its surroundings. It would actually have the same gravitational pull as a regular bagel. Gravity is just a consequence of how much mass an object has, and while a black hole can be created if that mass is located in a small enough space, a bagel’s worth of matter is still a bagel’s worth of matter. Supermassive black holes of the sort you probably imagine have enough mass that their gravity draws other objects towards it, which means its mass increases, leading towards the galactic plugholes you’re familiar with.
What changes in Everything Everywhere All At Once is that Jobu Tupaki puts everything on the bagel, and all matter in the universe compacted into a space the size and shape of a bagel, even a particularly big bagel, would definitely have a gravitational pull that would make it hazardous to any nearby objects. After all, infinite mass in a finite space is always going to be within its Schwarschild radius.
But the significance of the Everything Bagel goes beyond even this bit of theoretical physics.
A Bagel Universe
You see, physicists studying the background radiation of the universe have found evidence that spacetime, the headache-inducing medium whose curvature is responsible for gravity and whose expansion is our evidence for the Big Bang, is not the completely flat, rubber sheet we had always imagined. There is an overall curvature to the universe’s topology. There are many theories and models about what that overall shape might be, but a popular and recurring one these scientists suggest is that it might be a torus shape, like a donut or bagel.
A bagel, with everything on it.
It is a theory with some pretty wild implications. It posits a universe where, if you took your spaceship and flew off in a straight line, you would eventually end up back where you came from, just as a round Earth means that if you started off in one direction you would end up back where you came from.
In Everything Everywhere All at Once, the Everything Bagel is the ultimate expression of Jobu Tupaki’s nihilism. Much like universe-hopping characters like Rick Sanchez in Rick and Morty, the existence of an unending and infinite reality persuades her that ultimately, nothing matters. So it’s ironic that a bagel-shaped universe is a rare model of the universe that would present us with a finite, and even measurable reality. A flat reality could potentially go on forever, but simple geometry tells us that if you can measure something’s curvature, you can measure its size.
If you can measure the curvature of the universe, you can determine how long it would take you to make that round trip, which in turn would tell you how big the universe is. Some scientists estimate it could be only three or four times the size of the observable universe (the area of the universe whose light has had time to reach Earth between now and the Big Bang).
These are the earliest and most preliminary measurements and theories. The real Everything Bagel is still far from being a confirmed reality. Although, much like in the film, the bagel shape does seem to be an appealing and continually recurring idea.
If the theory is correct, it tells us the what, but not the why, and one omnipotent teenager with mother issues deciding to put everything on a bagel is as good an explanation as any.