Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is arguably one of the most pop culture-savvy movies released in recent memory. I saw it on opening day and thoroughly enjoyed it. But even so, I’ll admit to being a little troubled by some of the movie’s plot turns and simplifications.

I would never go so far as to say that the movie encourages the view of women as property, nor would I ever describe it as “Twilight for boys.” But there is something about its view of love and relationships that does bother me — something that won’t quite go away, something that isn’t entirely washed away by the movie’s ultra-giddy sense of style and nostalgia.

PopMatters’ “Scott Pilgrim vs. Thematic Clarity” is, I think, a fairer assessment of the film’s flaws.

Inasmuch as Pilgrim explores the “save the princess” archetype and questions romance as an abstracted end point arrived at through violence, the story then summarily rejects deeper characterization by asking us to forget all that and cheer for the death of the final boss anyway — simply because he’s a bigger jerk than Scott is. Ramona, the girl of Scott’s dreams, rarely rises above the level of the chorus or a visual aid, so it’s actually rather a relief in the film when Scott decides this isn’t about winning her. He acknowledges her incongruity within the flatness of his own story, but instead of reconfiguring and instilling depth in its framework to make it all work, he simply sections her off for later. Romance apparently can’t work within the very constraints that Pilgrim has set up for itself, but rather than performing the much-needed overhaul, the narrative simply accepts itself uncritically.

For what it’s worth, I do think that the movie’s somewhat shallow treatment of certain themes is simply due to the process of adapting and translating a multi-volume graphic novel to the silver screen — and deciding to focus, for obvious reasons, on making the “boss battles” as awesome as possible. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels do a much better job of fleshing out and exploring the moral complexities of the characters’ actions and offer a more nuanced take on many of the characters, all while still packing in the “boss battles” and 8-bit video game love.


  1. Yeah, I haven’t been able to catch the movie yet (I’m looking at you pronounced lack of babysitting!), but from the comics, I’d say that romance was never the point of the series. Scott Pilgrim definitely frames itself around a series of relationships, but always to the end of its real purpose, which is bildungsroman. The series is about Scott (primarily) growing up. Not growing up a lot, for sure. But definitely its about his transition from the safe comfort of innocence (Knives) to the difficulty and responsibility of real life (Ramona).

    I was satisfied in this and didn’t feel the need for it to be something other than what it intended.

  2. Tangentially related (only because it deals with Scott Pilgrim and it hints at the fact that SP is the coming-of-age tale of not just Scott, but the same for Knives, Stephen Stills, Lisa, Ramona, and the epicly fantastic Young Neil), you might find “Abhay’s Brief Note About Scott Pilgrim” on Savage Critics interesting. He really nails a lot of the stuff that O’Malley had going on up until volume five. (I’m still trying to absorb volume six and decide whether it caps the series in a satisfying way.)

    I run a quarterly graphic novel book club and it kills me that I can’t in good conscience assign a six-volume series because Scott Pilgrim has so much that’s discussion-worthy going on in it. Not only does O’Malley capture generational zeitgeist like little else I’ve read, he crafts a story of characters that only pretends to be plot-driven but is actually home to characters with meat and life on their bones.

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