Scott Pilgrim Vs My Sanity (spoilers)

According to Hit Fix one of the reasons Scott Pilgrim did poorly in the box office this weekend was because people were having trouble determining the plot. I never read the graphic novels upon which the film was based, so I think it is pretty fair to say I only had the trailers to go on myself. It seemed fairly obvious to me that Scott Pilgrim was based on a particular genre of graphic novel addressing disaffected youth, counter-culture, and the pursuit of women and/or girls. I’m not sure how you could watch the trailer and not know that.

Just in case:

the plot of Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Scott Pilgrim is a 22 year old slacker bassist in an unsigned band who thinks he has met the love of his life, hipster Ramona Flowers. In order to date her drama free, he must fight her 7 evil exes all of whom have magical or video game like powers. The bulk of the film takes place at video game speed, with power ups, point values, and information bubbles. Visually it is a cross between the arcade games of 70s childhoods and modern day play station lives. The whole thing is also set to music capitalizing on the popularity of guitar hero and indie rock cred to reaffirm its geek + hipster sensibility.

The Good

Scott Pilgrim vs The World/Universal Studios/2010

The script is full of snappy one liners that in lesser hands would come off as pathetic caricature. Fortunately, from the smallest roles to the largest ones, almost every actor in Pilgrim has the necessary comedic timing and snark to pull it off. Both Alison Pill and Kieran Culkin serve up the best performances in the film, helping keep the pace of Pilgrim moving and entertaining when it could just have easily insulted and fallen flat. Johnny Simmons is brilliant as Young Neal managing to delight in every scene he is in despite having few lines. The only people who don’t seem to elevate this film to similar teen-period-piece classics are  Bree Larson, whose comedic timing on US of Tara is always a joy to watch but here seems like she’s been directed to overact to avoid dealing with real female emotions, and Satya Bhabha whose role suffers from offensive stereotype too much for him to do much with it. But we’ll get to that … wait for it …

The music is both entertaining and sometimes really good in this film. Despite failing at the acting end of her role, Bree Larson on stage is a real treat and the song is one of the best in the film. All of the actors take their dual roles as grunge heroes seriously. When they are on stage their parodies play like the real thing. The least effective of these moments is the Asian dragon sequence, but we will get to that … wait for it …

The romantic moments in this film are both visually and emotionally compelling. Scott takes Ramona’s hand in the snow the shot captures the individual snow flakes and the open heart shape of their arms to the soft background music that would make any girl’s heart go pitter-pat. When they walk together in the x in the snow, the shot not only calls up the plot of the film (evil exes) but also speaks to the crossroad both of them have or will meet in the film. These scenes have all the magic of any romance and yet are couched in enough hipster quipping to keep it from making its core audience wonder what they got suckered into. For instance, in the scene where they sit on the swings in Toronto winter, Flowers in nothing but wool tights, mini, light jacket, and fingerless gloves, they both remark how ridiculous it is that they are outside trying to be romantic in freezing cold temperatures; then, they go inside. Take that Hollywood!

b. o’malley/bigshinyrobot.com

Ramona also makes a nice alternative to the leading women that dominate mainstream romantic comedies. While her disaffected attitude toward both the world and Scott has critics stumped, this seemed no more or less disengaged to me than any other hipster film. Ramona could just as easily be Juno or Nora from Nick and Nora, both of which critics loved. More interesting to me was the fact that she has a healthy body. While she is far a cry from a “plus size” model, she has ample hips and undefined arms; in other words, she’s normal. When Ramona takes her clothes off, the camera does not shy away from angles that will make her hips larger or her chest flatter, and no CGI turns her into Laura Croft eye candy either. As much derision as I have for hipster culture, one thing I have always appreciated is that there is room for women of all shapes and sizes in their films, you know as long as they are young, mostly white, and able-bodied … but will get to that … wait for it …

Finally, unlike any number of mainstream and alternative films, this is one of the first studio movies aimed at summer audience with prominent queer characters. Scott lives with his gay best friend Wallace, played by Kieran Culkin. Wallace is hilarious as the non-stereotypical wise-cracking best friend who just wants to live his slacker life and get laid like everyone else. Unlike the chirping snarkfest gay bestfriends of stereotype land, Wallace is compassionate when needed, horny in believable and non-pathologized ways, always has Scott’s back even when that means calling him out sans a single “girlfriend”, and rather than snark he peddles in a fair amount of cynicism that offers the only real moral compass of the film. While his ever increasing sex partners are a consistent joke in the film, this too is depicted in a way that runs against the grain of the hypersexed gay man or the tragically grateful coming out story that dominate queer young adult films these days. And truthfully, I like that he gets laid without much fanfare, struggle, or questioning but instead is just another guy living his life.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World/Universal Studios/2010

Ramona is also not completely straight. Throughout the film, Scott displays typical heterosexism as he works out how exactly he ended up having to fight Ramona’s 7 exes. Every time he says, “7 ex-boyfriends”, Ramona corrects him with “7 exes”. It starts out as a subtle reminder about how heterosexism works and how people with gay bestfriend’s can still be guilty of it. This subtlety-turned-unnecessary-repetition is followed up with Scott finally cluing in with a scene that reaffirms the way the film naturalizes all sexualities; when Ramona says she was going through “a phase”, Scott replies “what a sexy phase?”. While in some ways that rejoinder reaffirms a heterosexist gaze at lesbian sexuality, ie for the entertainment of straight men, it also refuses to judge or pathologize Ramona’s chocies. And while it is not the most questioning -affirming comment in the world, I loved it when Romana’s ex responds to their love affair being called “a phase” by calling her a “has-bien”, we used to call it L.U.G. (lesbian until graduation) in my day. And I don’t think this film used the term to demean bisexuals, which I assume is how it is used in the real world. Instead, the comment markedly calls out women who deny or disavow parts of their sexuality with little regard for the women they ab/use in the process. To me saying a real relationship was “a phase” with all the implied judgment in your tone in front of your ex is a far cry from being confused about what you like or being bisexual and deciding to commit to a man. Ramona is guilty of the former.

Truthfully, as a person who teaches film, if the movie had not failed so horribly in other places I would be comparing it to Fast Times or Singles, for its ability to capture a particular cultural moment in youth culture that people can identify with now and look back on fondly later when, like those other moments, youth culture has moved on,

The Bad

This movie is choppy. It very seldom lets a scene play out all the way through and has even less transition scenes. While this fits with the overall goal of the film to be like a video game, it leads to some scene splicing that pulls you out of the film and makes you wonder about technique rather than story line; visionary work can use new techniques while telling a story.

The same thing happens with excessive use of pop ups. While most of them are in keeping with the film’s overall feel, sometimes they seem like an unecessary device reminiscent of the decline of Pop Up Video on VH1 than innovation. In at least one scene there are so many of pop ups you don’t have time to read them all. Alternatively, the film uses black marks to cover up cursing to hilarious effect.

Ultimately, the problems seems more about too much and timing than technique. While Director Edgar Wright had an amazing grasp on cinematography and story, his love of his concept gets in the way. Some times I think he does not trust himself with the meatier parts of the story (of which there are few) so he dumps in some graphics instead. This is particularly true when he is dealing with the love story that supposedly drives the film and is unfortunate because he clearly has the chops to make the story line sing.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World/Universal Studios/2010

Most of the characters in this film are two-dimensional. Some characters are introduced and then never seen again. Others are given significant enough attention or back story that we want to know about them but they are simply plot devices that appear and disappear in the night. This is particularly problematic with regards to Scott’s ex-girlfriend who is supposed to motivate all his douchebaggery. Of course, the film isn’t invested in female characters … But we’ll get to that … Wait for it.

For the vegan viewers, this film will also enrage. One of Ramona’s evil exes is a vegan who as a result of not eating animal products has magical powers and the condescension to match. For me, his ridiculous banter and ultimate dethroning were deeply satisfying as a critique against self-righteous vegans who act as though they are better than everyone else. Example: PETA’s beached whale campaign that incited an endless barrage of fatphobia and hatred toward large people as non-vegan or self-appointed voices of the vegan movement on the internet who transform multiple conversations about racism, classism, and other oppressions preventing veganism from reaching certain people or changing world systems that impact animals into myopic rants about how everyone who disagrees with them “eats meat” and “hates vegans”. This kind of pseudo-sainthood that targets others and refuses to address one’s own oppressive behaviors makes vegans an easy target and the film is spot on in its depiction of the sanctimonious set within a much larger social justice movement.

At the same time, there is no room in this film for vegans who actually are neither elitest nor judgmental. There is no real vegan in this film. The evil ex, it seems eats chicken occasionally. Even if he did not, there is no other vegan in the film who is sane, committed to social justice, and just trying to live their life in the best way possible. For those vegans this image is a huge slap in the face. It smarts even harder no doubt because in the graphic novel the character is actually a drummer with a bionic arm not a vegan at all … but wait for it …

The Ugly

The article I linked to at the top of this post, has a whole list of reasons Scott Pilgrim did not do well at the box office. None of these include that the film is offensive and thus fails to entertain at a deeper level. However, I would argue that it is the depiction of women and APIs that is at the heart of its failure.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World/Universal Studios/2010

Scott Pilgrim begins with a backstory about Scott being on the rebound with a high school girl. He is 22 and she is 17. To get around both legality and the potential morality issues involved in this hook up, the film spends a considerable amount of time pointing out that they do not kiss nor have sex. I know I am Catholic, and so is Knives Chau, the girlfriend, but seriously … Worse than these age differences is the way Scott treats her. Not only does he forget about her regularly, he misses dates, picking her up, and even jumps out of a window to avoid her. (The window scene is hilarious out of context but fails to read the level of the panty scene in the Breakfast Club precisely because the film never takes its female characters seriously and its characters of color even less so.) Worse, he also cheats on her without even thinking about it; the majority of the film depicts his heartless cheating as the great love story for us to invest in with little regard to Knives either. It is one thing if your hero is a douchebag, it’s another if your storyline elevates it to romance.

While Knives is doting on his every word, Scott is trying to get Ramona to pay attention to him. He orders a useless gadget to get her to deliver it after he finds out that is her job. He slides up to her at a party and tries to be witty using the same pick up line he used on Knives a few scenes before. He even goes to bed with her, though they end up not having sex because Ramona changes her mind at the last minute, while still dating Knives. In fact, he is so insensitive that he invites Ramona to the same concert Knives has promised to come see without breaking up with her. When they start to confront him, he simply runs away and does his best to keep them from talking. Only Wallace tells him he is cruel and needs to man up and even then, his answer is to try to avoid it and then simply tell her as she is going on about how wonderful they are, that it is over.

In a scene that should make every girl’s skin crawl, Scott rides home on the train looking pathetic because he had to break up with his girlfriend and that made him feel bad. Poor Scott. And then, his pathetic shell-shocked expression twists into a giddy grin as Ramona’s face pops into his head. His 5 seconds of guilt don’t even amount to remorse since they are really about how much it sucked for him to have to look at Knives teary eyes than about how how he treated her, demeaned her, and took her for granted. Did I mention he makes her pay for their dates?

In typical male fantasy fashion, we are supposed to excuse Scott’s treatment of Knives for three reasons: (1) Ramona is his true love, so of course he pursued her. Except, Scott was a self-absorbed user before Ramona came into the picture. (2) Knives is better than Scott, Wallace tells us so and so does Knives herself so that makes all his neglect and douchebaggery ok. And (3) After stalking him throughout the rest of the film, Knives herself gives him permission to go after Ramona even though he was perfectly willing to take her back as a consolation prize at the end of the movie. You know because Ramona said she was leaving and Knives still has an allowance to buy video games and pizza with on their dates. (Supposedly he learns a lesson in this movie, there is even dialogue saying “I think I am learning something” except the fact he is willing to reunite with Knives when he does not love her undermines the entire thing.)

What is most offensive about the Knives storyline to me is that it does not need to be there. Knives serves no purpose in this movie except as a vehicle for Scott and his friend’s racism and/or sexism… wait for it … and his overwhelming self-absorption. Including Knives seems like a huge mistake for a film that tries so desperately to convince us that Scott is a good guy. In case your smart enough to know better, the movie has Ramona says it over and over again. In this way, I agree with many of the mainstream reviewers who said one of the big failings of this movie is that the main character is not particularly likable or interesting.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World/Universal Studios/2010

The premise of the movie is also basically sexist when you get right down to it. In order for Scott to be with Ramona he has to fight for her with a bunch of beefed out men, and one puckish girl, who barely care that Ramona is there. In fact, it turns out that none of them are fighting for Ramona but instead to get her back for the only guy in this movie who is more narcissistic and sexist than Scott himself. Haven’t we gotten past the woman as property or prize days yet?

Worse, it turns out Ramona’s motivation is that she is only using Scott to get her ex to pay attention to her. Seems like Scott and his rival have a lot in common whe it comes to how they treat women and Ramona’s quite the catch with her lust for self-absorbed people who barely care about her.

Despite supposedly being empowered, Ramona does nothing to defend herself or put a stop to the conflict, except when Scott refuses to “hit a girl”. He can use them and ignore them but hitting is where Scott draws the line; I wish the director felt the same.

Hitting girls is pretty common place in this film. Mr. Vegan punches Knives with such force that he “knocks out her highlights”. While the refrain about her highlights being gone is meant to make us laugh, there is nothing amusing about seeing the former Superman punch a 4 foot something teenage girl in the jaw. And there is even less amusing about the fact that neither Scott nor her new boyfriend do anything about it until he insinuates his sexual domination over the two white women in the room. The white women don’t care either by the way, one even seems turned on by it. Worst of all, this fight takes place between two women in the graphic novel, meaning the director decided it would be “funnier” to have a huge, muscle bound, male actor punch a thin teenage girl than follow the existing story line; it’s a “joke” he resorts to too often and it also speaks to the fact that while he does not mind changing the pre-existing story to heighten iniquity, he has no qualms with leaving it alone when the inequity is already there.

B. O’Malley

Which gets us back to the other major issue in this film: race. The way Scott treats Knives is bad enough on its own. But as he discusses her with his friends and family, he makes sure to mention that she is Asian. Many of their reactions point to the exotic erotic. Just in case we are too dumb to pick up on the unspoken orientalism, Scott spells it out for his sister when he points out that she is both Asian and has a Catholic School uniform …

Throughout the film her race is used to casually express racism. Besides the multiple conversations referenced above, when Scott wants to break up with her he asks if she is “even allowed to date outside her race” as if his eroticization of her is acceptable but her parents’ potential fears about that eroticization are discrimination. At the end of the film, she shows up dressed like a hipster version of a ninja. And when she gives Scott permission to go after Ramona, he says “Chow Knives” you know, cause her name is Knives Chau …

The other Asians in this film fair little better. Ramona’s first ex is Indian and is forced to do an obligatory Bollywood dance with ghost-vamps in the middle of their fight scene. It’s the kind of thing that made me question what exactly does go on behind the doors of 20-something hipsters’ homes when they’ve locked all the people of color out. When Ramona explains their relationship, she says “he was the only non-white jock in the town.” So she did not date him because she liked him; she dated him because he fit into her rebellion against hypermasculinized whiteness that left her no room for female autonomy. In this way, she has something in common with Scott in that she dated a person of color to give her friends and neighbors something to talk about but otherwise could care less about them as people or lovers. She also has something in common with Julie Roberts’ new movie, in as much as her supposed act of feminist enlightenment was bought on the back of brown men. Yippee!

Ramona also dated Asian twins. Their sole contribution to this film is a synthesizer that shoots out Chinese dragons. If that weren’t bad enough, let me just point out that the twins last name is not Chinese, it’s Japanese.

Conclusions

Scott Pilgrim vs The World/Universal Studios/2010

I walked into Scott Pilgrim with the last shred of hope I had left for the summer movie season. I was expecting a sort of graphic novel angst that both entertained and sent up the original in unique ways. While the graphics and the overall gifted cinematic eye were certainly present in much of this film, its tongue-in-cheek hipster angst fell flat in the face of so much unnecessary racism and sexism. The film’s race politics seem to be  a fairly faithful adaptation of the graphic novel which means both the racism and some of the sexism originated there and the directors and writers made the decision not to omit it in the re-telling for film. What concerns me most about Scott Pilgrim then is that it is not new in its peddling of either oppression; instead, it seems like a sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes visually compelling version of the same old 20-something shlock. While hipsters pat themselves on the back for being completely disaffected with all the evil in our world, able to cut through the bullshit, and take on any number of liberal causes it seems like in their fantasies, and for many in their real lives, the oppressions that do not impact them directly do not matter to them any more than the fascists and neocons they define themselves against.

I understand why young men would be attracted to this film. Michael Cera as average Joe is always compelling and his fight scenes, done mostly himself, and endless supply of women makes him the perfect nerd hero whether playing Scott Pilgrim or the myriad of other versions of this character elsewhere. However, it is hard to know why white women, and a handful of women of color, buy into this culture that does not take them anymore seriously than the sexist society they rally against. While mainstream culture is both blatant and unapologetic about its exploitation and objectification of young women, hipsters do pay lip-service to their empowerment and does so in this film as well. But if all feminism means these days is you get to be as big a douche as the pompous boy ignoring you and you get to have everyone around you acknowledge that you are smarter and cooler even while they do nothing to change their interpersonal worlds to make room for you as anything other than the ignored girlfriend, hated interloper, or object of racialized sexual fantasy, than give me a new movement. And please spare me the transparent cinematic reinforcement that elevates average Joe at Jane’s expense.

Overall Scott Pilgrim gets a C for Crap.

19 thoughts on “Scott Pilgrim Vs My Sanity (spoilers)

    • Hi Shannon, welcome to the blog. I think the movie depicted him that way but I don’t think we were meant to see him that way. The graphic novels actually commit to him as self-absorbed instead of good guy?

  1. I hated the movie, and walked out of the cinema within the first hour. I am glad that I did not waste any more time than I had to.

  2. welcome to the blog CAM and Sally. I could not have walked out because I was meeting someone afterward but I did consider sneaking in to their movie instead of suffering through the end of this one.

  3. I saw the film first, and did not think that Scott was supposed to be a sympathetic character. Then I read the available novels, which my sister owns, and they definitely commit to Scott not being a sympathetic character. That’s why it has to end with him gaining self-respect. He doesn’t respect himself, and he doesn’t respect others. He’s in danger of becoming Gideon, who is obviously a total bastard. He ends up with the other partially-broken character, not with the uber-awesome Knives. It’s really a bit of a deconstruction of the video game hero genre after which it patterns itself. Maybe even purposely so?

    • I think what’s hard is that the film has several moments where it literally says Scott is the “nicest boyfriend” that I think undermines the reading of him as intentionally pathetic in the film. At the same time, I think both you & Shannon make a valid point about the intention behind the character. The film does a poor job of committing to Scott as an a**hole even as it depicts him as one, so that is a failure in the directing and the script that change the overall reading of the film. If it started with a bubble that said “Scott Pilgrim is an asshole” or less blatantly refused to depict him as a romantic hero complete with reassurances about how great he is by his female love interests then I’d think differently.

      Also, sadly this doesn’t change the racism issues or some of the gender issues in the film. But thanks for giving me something to think about.

  4. I believe your review may have missed the moral of the story amidst your search for something to hate.
    Scott is a terrible person. The 95% of the movie is spent showing us what an awful guy he is, and how pointless what he does is.

    He does his best to ignore the foul things he does, and he can only react with violence.

    Ramona has the same character flaw; she expects that breaking the hearts of guy after guy can go without consequences.

    Scott is only the nicest because he is less lousy.

    His revelation at the end that he is a bad person is the lesson you were meant to take away. He even gets along with the evil embodiment of himself instead of fighting. I don’t know how much more of a message you need to see the “bad people can change” story.

    Perhaps you could see it again with that in mind and you would not be so troubled by the issues you’ve found.

    • Yes it’s true, I spent money & time watching & reviewing this movie & praised multiple pts in it because I am a hater. So, since most of the pt.s you made in your comment are actually in this review does that make you a hater too? Or is it just the fact that you are ignoring or excusing away the race & gender issues b/c Scott has a 5 min epiphany at the end of this movie (also addressed in post)?

      @everyone now seems like that time when I remind ppl to read the whole post before commenting & thank the ppl who, whether we agree or disagree, did that.

  5. Man, “Ciao Knives” was racist rather than a word play-y way to say goodbye to a character that he, at the end anyway, did end up valuing as a friend if nothing else? I’m somewhat amazed.

    Anyway, I really did like this review, even if I disagree with much of it. And honestly, a lot of that disagreement is because I’ve actually read the comics in their entirety. The problem with Scott Pilgrim vs the World is that it’s not two movies. If it had been two movies, we would have gotten more fleshed out characterization for the exes (specifically everyone after Lucas), more for the bandmates (Kim never really got touched on, Stephen is both a vegetarian and turns out to be gay), and especially more parallels between Scott and Gideon, which is the most important thing. In the comics it’s fairly clear that Scott’s an asshole on the potential scale of Gideon, and if he hadn’t learned anything would eventually become Gideon. In the movies, this comes to a head near the end when Knives and Ramona actually talk, and he realizes exactly how bad he was when finally confronted with the mess he caused. He was not the “nicest boyfriend”, as you pointed out in a comment. He was the nicest boyfriend Ramona had had, which should be fairly obvious.

    I don’t really think the violence against women was especially played for laughs either. The “He punched the highlights out of her hair” wasn’t done in a semi joking manner, and Todd’s reaction afterwards was pretty clearly meant to make the viewer hate him and get his cockiness across, again because of time constraints. Yes, the drummer did it in the comics, but the comic also had the time to illustrate Todd cheating on Envy.

    I guess to wrap this up because this is getting wordy and the last comment was some nine days ago, I read your review. I think you raise some decent points even! I also don’t agree with many of them.

    • I appreciate your filling in more information from the original text for readers who are unfamiliar.

      As I have said elsewhere, I question the efficacy of criticizing a film review based on material in a book. If the film only translates to people who are already familiar with the characters than the film has not done it’s job.

      A movie should not require advanced (prior) reading to make narrative sense. One of the things I have found most interesting about reviews and comments about the film is that it really has boiled down to previous fans (or those who read the gns afterward) vs film viewers (with some exceptions) which speaks volumes about where the film fails, especially with regards to gender.

      Under the circumstances, I think much of our disagreement stems from reviewing different material as the primary text. But I will say, that where we will likely always disagree is on whether puns based on ethnic names in a film in which every depiction of API Americans is a stereotype are, or should ever be, considered amusing or clever. (you’ll note John Mayer excused his sexist-racist comments by saying he was “just trying to be clever”). Out of context such humor is racialized triteness, in context it is part of a larger racially biased picture. I was emphasizing both readings in this post, ie that it is an example of the trite humor in the film as well as its disparate racialization of its characters. And truthfully, tho it isn’t new, I will always be surprised by how willing liberal hipsters are to judge racism by their own white normative experience even in the face of critique from people of color.

      Thanks again for weighing in.

      ****

      (I’m sure the next comment will come from someone with an Asian friend who thought it was funny, so let me just say now Dr. Laura has a black body guard, so what?)

  6. Wow. You mention racism & suddenly people forget everything else you said about the movie, including all the positives. I’m white and I am embarassed by everyone trying to justify racism.

    here is another post that actually addressess all of the Asian characters in the movie in depth, has read the books, and reaches the same conclusions as professor sussuro:

    http://www.racialicious.com/2010/08/17/knives-chau-vs-bad-character-development/

    IMHO you could learn a lot about being an ally from both of these posts.

    • Thanks for the link, I had not read that post but will now.

      Just to add, I linked to an article by a white journalist in my follow up to this post, who said he did ‘t notice the race issues either until he noted the racial divides in comments about going to see the movie and then he re-watched the film with a focus on racial representations. He concluded the film was racist, citing how none of the Asian characters are three dimensional and all the ones with speaking parts are depicted as slightly to totally unhinged. I really appreciated how he took a step back from his fandom and easy identification with the storyline to consider issues outside of his experience.

  7. It seems that you’ve taken a somewhat bitter tone in all of this.

    To a degree, it would have been near impossible to fit into this movie everything that took place in the graphic novels. I’ve read them, as well as seen this movie quite a few times now. I see the two as apples to oranges, rather than stemming from the same tree here. There is simply too much character development that didn’t take place.

    Wrights decisions to film this movie in the manner that he did were incredibly unique. It has been years since a movie has been released with such an… “original” and creative spin, if you will. It was eye candy if nothing else, in a manner that transcended the typical stereotypes of superhero based movies.

    Unfortunately, you seem to have taken a rather negative opinion of the movie overall. I’ll agree with the previous poster that you’re simply looking for things to hate here. By your standards, the vast majority of what many would consider “classic” movies would be flawed at the core, and unacceptable by your standards.

    Does this movie stereotype and have its own biases? Absolutely. But who doesn’t? That’s the society we live in, and it’s nigh impossible to free ourselves from bias in every form and fashion. Pop culture jokes and 80s/90s references are scattered throughout the film, and many of them do in fact play upon sexuality, gender, and race. But to call the film racist in somewhat of an outrageous claim, in my opinion. You seem to carry that sentiment quite heavily throughout your review, and I’d hazard to guess that it is more of an issue of personal baggage that you carry as opposed to an issue with the author. Ironically enough, the original author is of Asian descent.

    Scott is indeed a jerk. That’s something that the novels make quite clear. Ramona is also a jerk. They’re both flawed characters, with Scott constantly portraying himself as a victim and white knight of sorts. Ramona is no saint as well, and although the film hardly dips into her character as much as it should have, she’s just as bad as Scott in many instances. At the core, however, they’re both utterly human and real. You would be hard pressed to find somebody who wouldn’t relate.

    To argue that a film fails simply because it didn’t have enough time to accurately portray every character in their entirety is in my opinion somewhat of an outrageous position to hold. Sadly enough, compromises must be made. A film is a substantial investment, after all. We can’t expect everything to be included. To claim that the film was a box office failure based on its portrayal of women is an equally outrageous claim. I think you would be more accurate to assign that blame to poor trailers and the nature of the film being generational and niche at its core.

    • I don’t disagree about its innovative cinematic style, in fact I reference it in the beginning of this post.

      A question: tell me, what is the difference between a liberal telling a person of color that saying racist jokes is offensive is “bitter” and a conservative telling a person of color that saying racist jokes is offensive “needs to develop a sense of humor”? (In case you don’t get the reference, the latter was accompanied by the use of the n-word 12 times)

      You seem to be arguing that because racism exists in the world we are not allowed to discuss nor demand that racism not appear in film and by extension stop being considered normative by people like you in the world. Would you say that because every 7 seconds a woman is raped or physically abused in the U.S. we should just accept violence against women?

      Your also completely misreading the discussion about the books vs. the film. I never said the film failed because it does not contain everything in the books, I haven’t read the books. I said that if the only way fans can justify or explain the issues in the film is to point to the books than the film has failed to adequately depict those things for an audience unfamiliar with the book. Look at the Harry Potter films, they seldom follow the books but they are coherent stories in which the characters are clear to all audience members.

      ——
      For everyone tempted to write a comment justifying racism in this thread, I would like you to consider the following questions first:

      1. what is so disturbing about a 2 page movie review that mentions racism in 1-2 paragraphs that you feel the need to reduce it to a post about racism?
      2. What do you gain by calling a person of color angry, bitter, or a hater when she brings up racism?
      3. What system of beliefs do you hold that makes you think that as white people you are better qualified to determine what is and what is not racist than the people of color who experience it?
      4. What investment have you made in Scott Pilgrim (the book or the film) and/or your view of yourself related to this narrative that it is so important to shut down any discussion of race or racism related to it?
      5. Finally, why is it so important for Scott Pilgrim to be absolved of racism and for anyone who says otherwise to be vilified?

      When you have taken time out to think about those questions, then you are welcome to post a comment.

  8. Pingback: guerrilla semiotics | Scott Pilgrim; musings on misogyny

  9. I apologize for commenting on a post that’s nearly a year old, but after hearing many glowing words about the film and how it should have done better at the box office I finally rented it.

    But holy crap do I regret giving the filmmakers my money. I got as far as the scene after the party where Scott flops into bed with his roomie who admonishes him not to cheat on his “fake high school girlfriend” and the way this issue totally flew past the protagonist sent me into a rage. I’ve never been cheated on, nor have I ever cheated on anyone, but that kind of abuse and betrayal of a total innocent is the sort of thing villains do in stories like this. It’s the sort of thing that makes me want to punch a character in the face repeatedly, not root for him.

    So I paused the film and immediately Googled my personal reaction to the character:

    “scott pilgrim is an asshole”

    And the first link in the results was this blog post.

    I was half hoping to find spoilers saying he changed over the course of the film, and half hoping for simple validation of my personal reaction. Apparently it only gets worse as the story progresses.

    Thank you for your insightful summary and analysis. Sadly, I don’t think there’s much reason to be surprised that the generation this film is aimed at is little better than their predecessors. I’m about twice as old as Scott and I remember how we used to believe we were the first generation to finally be “up above it.” It’s a much slower process than that though.

    Anyhow I will not be watching the rest of the film.

    • While I don’t think violence is the answer, I do appreciate the frustration with the film and the character. Thanks for also reminding me that all though the hipster praise of such behavior is tied up in modern culture that misogyny and racism are in fact part of every generation in the U.S. and praised in sub-cultures throughout our history.

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