Jeremy Allen White as Carmy in The Bear

Unpacking the Many Meanings of ‘Bear’ in ‘The Bear’

Season 2 of The Bear premiered on June 22, 2023, and while it maintained the show’s quality and popularity, it also delved further into the meaning of the show’s title. The Bear is a Hulu original series starring Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a brilliant young chef who returns to Chicago to run his deceased brother’s sandwich shop. Carmy struggles to keep his brother’s legacy alive while whipping his shop, The Original Beef of Chicagoland (also known simply as The Beef), and its crew into shape. The Bear is equal parts hilarious and tragic as it follows one family’s unexpected navigation of grief, generational trauma, and the chaotic culinary business.

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The Bear has received widespread critical acclaim, earning a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes and scooping up countless Critics’ Choice Awards and Golden Globe Awards. Even those who love the series admit to being perplexed about the show’s title. This is because the first season really doesn’t delve into the meaning of the title extensively. In one episode, Carmy has a nightmare where he’s fighting a bear, leaving some viewers curious if this was the show’s only connection to the title.

It isn’t until the season 1 finale that the mystery around The Bear‘s title starts unraveling. In the finale, it is revealed that Carmy’s brother had dreamed of opening a new restaurant called The Bear. To fulfill his brother’s dreams, Carmy closes The Beef and puts plans in motion to make The Bear a reality. Even so, some viewers might’ve still missed the significance of “The Bear” to the Berzatto family.

The meaning of The Bear

Carmie sitting in The Bear.
(Matt Dinerstein / FX)

In season 1, it is revealed that Carmy’s late brother, Michael (Jon Bernthal), had nicknamed him Bear. It seemed to simply be a term of endearment and affection that also represented Carmy’s endurance and strength as he took off to build a life for himself in New York. Additionally, it reflected the Berzatto family’s affinity for nicknames. Carmy wasn’t the only “Bear” of the family, as Michael was also sometimes called Mikey Bear, while their sister Natalie (Abby Elliott) was nicknamed Sugar and occasionally called Sugar Bear.

The Bear season 2 digs a little deeper into the nickname in episode 6, “Fishes,” where viewers watch a flashback of the Berzatto family Christmas gathering. During the festivities, Carmy’s cousin Michelle (Sarah Paulson) brings up how someone compared her last name Berzatto to a bear. This caused the family to launch into a discussion about bears and how the animal metaphorically represents the family, too. Bears are described as “very aggressive,” but also as kind, sensitive, devoted, altruistic, and empathetic. At the family gathering, there is definitely quite a bit of aggression, and it’s an intense and heated affair that represents that strained family dynamic. At the same time, the episode makes it very clear that this family does love each other in their own way. Despite their flaws, they recognize that they’re very bear-like when it comes to loyalty and love for one another.

As a result, Bear isn’t just a play on the name Berzatto. It’s also a representation of the Berzatto family that captures their nature and bond with one another.

(featured image: FX / Hulu)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.