Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Five Things About Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Nobody Is Saying

Or, at least, 5 Things About Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World I Haven't Seen Anyone Say Yet

There's a lot of reasons why I think Scott Pilgrim didn't have a huge blockbuster opening. It opened against two of the most anticipated movies of the summer. Its' target audience is the rich in heart but poor in cents twenty-somethings who can't afford $9.50 for a movie ticket at a fancy first-run theater. And perhaps most damning of all,is an Indie comedy about relationships disguised as a with a blockbuster action flick.

Now, I liked Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. But even I, a fan who read all of the books beforehand, will admit that the movie had some flaws. That being said, I wasn't expecting some of the complaints that I've seen coming from the professional press. How it panders to nerds at the expense of the mainstream. How nobody under the age of 30 has any point of entry into the movie. And my personal favorite, how it isn't really a nerd movie, despite being based on a comic book, because it's about guys who are in bands and stuff, not geeks sitting around in their parents' basements playing World of Warcraft.

*sighs* Ignoring how utterly ignorant that last statement is regarding myself and the many other geeks out there who - oh my gosh - actually leave the house and get away from the computer once in a while... I would like to vent my spleen regarding a few things about the movie - and the criticism - that did bother me, which I haven't seen anyone else address yet.

1. Michael Cera Actually Acts In This Movie!

I know it's generally acceptable to hate on Michael Cera because he plays basically the same stock schlemiel character in everything he is in. Believe me - I was worried when I heard he was playing Scott Pilgrim. But honestly? He does a good job.

Granted, there is a fine line between being a clueless dork (i.e. Cera's usual character) and a clueless jerk (i.e. Scott in the comics) but Cera does manage to make the distinction in the early parts of the film, where he genuinely has no idea that most of his behavior is utterly inappropriate. And yet, Cera's still manages - in my mind at least - to show enough of Scott's inner humanity to make us want to root for him, even as he is dodging the drama of dumping his current girlfriend while actively pursuing the girl of his dreams.

2. Wallace Is Turned Into A Negative Gay Stereotype

Wallace, Scott's roomate, is possibly the most popular member of the supporting cast from the original comic. Indeed, rumor has it that Bryan Lee O'Malley may be planning a spin-off sequel comic series centering upon Wallace. It is a credit to O'Malley that so many of his characters are openly homosexual but it isn't treated as a big deal and that he avoids the cliches that so often go along with gay characters in comic books.

And yet in the movie, the fact that Wallace is a flirt and a drunk is played up to the degree that he is depicted as cheating on his boyfriend (something that never happened in the comic) and sharing his bed with two guys - not including Scott. In the comics, Wallace being a flirty drunk was never equated as being part of his being gay. And even though Wallace is a minor character who freely admits to his own hypocrisy when called on it by Scott in the movie, it still bugs me that such a cool character has been reverted to being a promiscuous gay stereotype.

3. Ramona Is A Damsel In Distress.

The books are just as much about Ramona coming to terms with her own callous behavior regarding how she used and abused her exes as it is Scott realizing what a jackass he's been and making the decision to grow up. In short, the journey of discovery is not one-sided and both male and female readers can find a protagonist to relate to. And in the end, Ramona joins Scott in the final battle against her manipulative ex-boyfriend Gideon.

Not so in the movie, where Ramona is - for the most part - passive to the very end regarding the idea that she is a prize to be won. And in the final battle, Scott is assisted by his much-abused ex-girlfriend Knives, who is - for no reason readily presented in the movie - content to let Scott move on to a life with Ramona despite having been a crazed stalker for most of the movie.

4. Scott Pilgrim Is Not About Hipsters!

One thing that really disturbs me is how many people have been quick to dismiss this film - not as a stupid video-game/comic flick - but as being yet another comedy about whinny hipsters who need a serious boot up their ass.

Strictly speaking, most of the characters in this movie aren't hipsters. Hipsters, by definition, rebel against the popular mainstream culture by choice. Usually this rebellion manifests in the use of styles or fashions that are opposed to what is fashionable. Odd facial hair or hair cuts, clunky glasses, old, distressed clothing and the collecting of records despite not owning a record player - these are the things that mark the Hipster.

But Scott - and most of his friends - are not hipsters. They don't shop at Goodwill because they're trying to look retro. They shops at Goodwill because they are POOR. Their T-shirts are not the $30 distressed tees sold at American Apparel stores everywhere - they are distressed because they have been washed and rewashed over and over since high school.

5. It's A Coming Of Age Story!

Seriously. Out of all of the reviews I've read of this movie, only a scant few mentioned the heart of the plot - that it is a coming of age story about man-child becoming a man. I wish it had been about a girl becoming a woman, too. But that's neither here nor there.

What's truly disturbing is the sheer number of people - some supposedly professional critics - who watched this movie and somehow came away with the opposite message. Perhaps the most inflammatory of these was the critic for The Philadelphia Weekly, who felt that the movie taught young nerdy boys the lesson that "it’s OK to treat their women like shit if something “better” comes around."

Yes, Scott is a heel who treats his girlfriend Knives badly. He's also not a bum who leaches off of his roommate, treats the friends he formed a band with badly and generally acts like the kind of jackass most people wouldn't piss on if he was on fire. But he changes. The movie is all about Scott realizing this and trying to become a better person - at first in the name of love but finally because he figures he owes it to himself to be better for the sake of being better.


  1. Honestly one thing to be glad about Wallace (whatever you think about promiscuous or what) at least he wasn't super swishy or lispy or anything like that. In many ways he wasn't the cartoon you speak of him as. They could have really screwed up with him and frankly I think he turned out waaaay better than he could have been and yes granted that's not perfect but that's okay. And yeah I was pleased that Cera actually acted too. He did put some effort in there.

  2. It's true. It could have been a lot worse and I've seen nothing but praise for the character and the actor playing him in all the reviews I've read. But it was still a bit jarring given that Wallace was not at all a stereotype in the comic.
    On the other hand, they DID have him being sarcastic about the idea of being introduced to gay teenage boys. So... yeah. Maybe I am making much ado over nothing.

  3. he is depicted as cheating on his boyfriend (something that never happened in the comic) and sharing his bed with two guys
    I just took that part as Wallace being in an open or polyamourus relationship, as one of the two guys in bed with Wallace was his boyfriend (though there was a third later). Also the line about double standards is in the book, it's just not explicitly stated as to what Scott is saying is a double standard (at least I didn't catch it).