Warning: This article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Movies and shows introduce new threats and revelations by looping previously unmemorable aspects and putting massive weight behind them all the time. But Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse took it to absurdly hilarious and tragic heights by making one of the first film’s best jokes into a central touchstone of a villain’s origin story, and the source of a new meme.
Early in Across the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) encounters the Spot (Jason Schwartzman), a white being with black spots all over his body (including one on his face), trying to steal money from an ATM. He didn’t mean to turn to a life of crime; his appearance just made it impossible to get a job and make money. Nobody takes him seriously, especially Miles, who thinks the Spot is kind of a joke; later on, Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) will describe him as a “villain of the week.”
Miles’ ensuing fight with the Spot takes them across Brooklyn and to Alchemax, the laboratory responsible for creating the super-collider, the machine that brought several Spider-people into Miles’ world—or rather, what remained of it. It’s there that the Spot reveals, in a monologue explaining that he is Miles’ nemesis, that they’re the catalyst for each other’s origin stories. As a scientist at Alchemax (the lab responsible for the super-collider in the first film), he brought a spider from another dimension, which later bit Miles.
His ire grows when he recalls their first encounter.
“You ran into the cafeteria,” he said. “You hit me with a bagel!”
“I hit a lot of different villains with a lot of different foods,” Miles quips back. The Spot isn’t amused by the jokes.
The Spot is referencing a tiny scene in Into the Spider-Verse when Miles and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) steal computer equipment to create a goober to destroy the super-collider. It’s such a walk in the park for Peter that he grabs a bagel on the table in his planned heist.
Alchemax scientists notice the theft of both the computer hard drive and the bagel—one woman shouts, “He got the bagel!”—which leads Miles to toss it over to stop one of the scientists from taking him and Peter down. In Into the Spider-Verse, it’s mainly memorable because the word “Bagel!” appeared over his head and became an onomatopoeia in its own right.
As it turns out, the Spot was the scientist on the receiving end of that stolen bagel, and his screams of anguish are what you’d expect if Miles threw some furniture at him instead.
But if their first meeting didn’t directly lead to the events of Across the Spider-Verse—and the loose threads at its cliffhanger ending—what happened, later on, did: The Spot was in the room when Miles destroyed the super-collider at the end of Into the Spider-Verse, leading to a much more permanent transformation.
Did the film’s writers plan on making the guy Miles hit with a bagel the villain of the next two Spider-Verse movies from the get-go? Probably not; there’s a reason why Across the Spider-Verse reuses the footage of the woman alerting everyone to the bagel theft but the bagel’s collision with the Spot is brand-new (even beyond the close-up factor). But it’s a key example of writers Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and David Callaham finding a way to loop what might’ve been a small and insignificant (albeit incredibly hilarious) thing and putting it in a new light.
But the bagel association has become so effective that fans are now tracing the Spot’s entire trajectory in Across the Spider-Verse from joke villain to someone who can travel across the Spider-Verse without any issues and is planning to take everything Miles loves from him, starting with his father to that careless bagel toss.
It’s called the Bagel Effect, a riff on the Butterfly Effect, and it essentially works the same way. One small act leads to an avalanche of consequences of epic proportions in ways that might not make sense linearly.
Multiple iterations of the meme, which went viral on YouTube and later TikTok, feature the same concept. They often include footage from Into the Spider-Verse or Across the Spider-Verse until the moment of bagel contact. Then, the video cuts to the Spot in full menacing mode; often, they’ll use the Slender Man-like rendering (black with white squiggles).
The insinuation, however much of a joke it might be? If Miles didn’t toss that bagel, none of this would’ve happened. (By that logic, it’s actually Spot’s fault because he brought the spider that bit Miles to Earth-1610, but he’s far from the only Across the Spider-Verse character to blame the unraveling of people’s lives and the entire multiverse on Miles’ shoulders alone, regardless of whether he deserves it.)
@unhairy_nuts Bagel effect #fyp #acrossthespiderverse #thespot #acrossthespiderverseedit ♬ original sound – Unhairy Nuts
“That bagel really hit the spot,” @caske57 wrote, offering a pun befitting for Spider-Man.
@caske57 The bagel effect #spot #fypシ゚viral ♬ original sound – caske
Some got creative and looped in what could fit alongside Earth-131222 (the Lego universe) as several Lego Spider-Men discussed the bagel. Complete with a Lego bagel, of course.
@zachthemaniac_ The Bagel Effect… #lego #legomarvel #legospiderman #spiderman #spiderverse #spidermanacrossthespiderverse #fyp #viral #funny #meme #memes #funnyvideos #stopmotion #animation #legos ♬ original sound – Zachary Murza
And one TikTok labeled the tossing of the bagel to be Miles Morales’ biggest mistake.
@realdnsxx 🥯 #thespot #bagel #milesmorales #spiderverse #spidermanacrossthespiderverse #spiderman #spiderbparker #foryou #fyp #viral #mistake #marvel ♬ Kerosene – Crystal Castles
It’s rare for a joke to still be as funny now as it was five years ago. It’s even rarer for the sequel to make that joke even funnier.