(Yeah, I know I’m writing about Scott Pilgrim a lot right now — for whatever reason, it’s providing me a lot of thinking fuel, so I’m using it.
Also, it’s helping me deal with some of the requests a publisher sent me for revisions on Hidden Things, which makes the whole Scott Pilgrim oeuvre very precious to me right now.)
“So…” I said to Kate, “here’s an interesting thought; imagine Scott Pilgrim if there were no fighting, and it was just about him trying to make a relationship work with Ramona.”
Kate thought about it for about two seconds and said. “Yeah that would basically be every other Michael Cera movie, ever.”
“That’s not what I mean,” I replied. “Also: that’s totally true, and you’re funny. But that’s not what I mean.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean look at the movie without the fighting in it at all, but with everything else — with Scott ‘beating’ not Ramona’s literal exes, but just her memories and baggage from those relationships, and how he does that in every case.”
She looked nonplussed. “Give me an example.”
I nodded. “The first time Ramona sees Scott play with the band in front of people; how he looked up on stage and his whole Scott-ness — that boosted him up past the first of her exes — he beat that one. She’s looking at him rock out up on stage and feels like ‘Okay, he’s already better than the first guy I ever kinda dated.'”
“That works,” she said. “You should blog this.”
And since I always do what she tells me*, I did.
We went through the whole list of evil exes and parsed the results of each confrontation as though they weren’t actually fights.
I will tell you about these things now, but there are kind-of spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet (you should), you may want to stop reading now.
- Evil Ex 1: as stated, Scott basically ‘beat’ this guy just by rocking out in his patented, Michael Cera, adorkable way.
- Scott meets the hunky, muscular ex, talks to him, fanboys, and bonds, while in no way trying to be as butch as him. Ramona gets bored and/or uncomfortable with this whole scene and bails for like, two days.
- Scott points out the hypocrisy of the I’m-better-than-you-vegan-guy-who-isn’t-really-vegan, humbling him so badly that not only Ramona gets over him, but Envy gets over him too.
- Roxy and the whole bi-curious thing challenges Scott’s masculinity. This is totally about sex — Scott beats Roxy by letting Ramona basically ‘show him what to do’ (stuff we know from the books are all moves that Roxy taught Ramona in the first place) — totally one of my favorite fights in the movie. Anyone who doesn’t think this is about Ramona showing Scott what she likes in bed, consider that the scene ends with Scott touching an unexpected erogenous zone.It’s worth noting that Scott really doesn’t get over this conflict very well — he wins, but his confidence is shaken by this, and leads to a lot of whining on his part.
- The Twins. These two are BIG in Ramona’s memory because they are good musicians. Scott ascends past them in Ramona’s mental hierarchy by simply rocking harder than they do.
- Gideon. Scott tries to win Ramona back by telling her he loves her, but it fails; she’s heard that before, from her evil exes, and it never holds up in her experience. Then Scott gets a life and asserts his Self Confidence — one way or the other, regardless of what happens, he believes in himself, and it lets him believe in everyone ELSE — that belief powers up The Band, Ramona, and even Knives Chau. That confidence is the one thing Gideon doesn’t (really, truly) have, and it’s what puts Scott above him for Ramona.Finally, it’s what allows him to survive the confrontation with his real arch-nemesis; it lets him own all his many mistakes and move on without ignoring them.
I really like this story, and even though I kind of tossed it all out with this little thought exercise, I really liked the fights as a continuing metaphor; they’re the reason this isn’t just another Micheal Cera movie — every conflict with the evil exes is EPIC BATTLE, and isn’t that always how it feels at the time?
That said, the thing I like best of all is the fact that no one’s very good — and it makes them much more real to me, despite the way the whole thing is presented. Scott’s done some crappy things to people in the past. Ramona is screwed up and could often be considered the Bad Guy in her past relationships. Between the two of them, they kind of deserve all the crap that happens when they get together.
All that’s left for them to do is give up and run away or say “Yeah, I did some shitty things, and in turn some shitty things happened to me, but stick another quarter in — I’m going to keep trying.”
Next post, I’m going to talk about how this informed my take on the ubiquitous “bad things that happened to me in the past” stuff that we always give characters in our stories.