Sunday, February 26, 2012

Scott Pilgrim vs Female Agency

Or: what do Bryan Lee O'Malley and a thirteenth century Languedoc troubadour have in common?

I finally watched Scott Pilgrim vs The World this month. While it has lots of nice touches - the chiptune intro, the Bollywood dance-fight breakdown, the snarky drummer - it felt like cramming all the books into a single film was over-ambitious.

Also - casting the inert element that is Michael Cera in such a dynamic, kinetic film was a stroke of counter-intuition which didn't work for me.

My real concern with SPVTW though, is it's central device of Scott having to defeat his lady love Ramona's evil exes before being 'allowed' to date her. While it's a cute video-game reference, can you imagine a gender-reversal of this scenario?

Granted, Ramona is as bad-ass a fighter as Scott and clearly much more together than he is. But it's not her who is having to fight her own past lovers, never mind Scott's exes. The film speaks to a discourse of (heterosexual) love as a game which men play and win, where women either have no choice, or their choice is contested by the men in their lives.

The combination of rock and denial of female agency in
SPVTW ultimately reminded me of courtly love. A load of guys bashing seven shades out of each other to win the love of a fair maiden, backed by guitars lutes? Is it Scott Pilgrim or the Late Middle Ages?

Either way, I'll sign off with this previously unseen drawing of an early (thirteenth century) Sexbobbomb line-up. I'm loving the intensity of the triangle player.


  1. For the record, I can imagine a gender-reversal scenario. Also for the record, I haven't read the comics so I can only comment on the film.

    As an exercise, imagine just that. What would your feelings be about Ramona having to defeat Scott's evil exes before being 'allowed' to date him? Would you be less troubled? If so, why? If not, why not?

    One could look at the film another way. The film is called "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" and not "Scott & Ramona". The story isn't about Scott and Ramona, it's about how Scott deals with Life, the Universe & Everything (the "vs. The World" bit). This would include himself, because his personal issues affect how he deals with the world. Fighting Ramona's exes is about him fighting his own insecurities about a (potential) partner's past. If I remember correctly, he also fights his own exes boyfriend. With each victory he becomes more confident in himself. At the end, he no longer questions his worthiness - he doesn't have to compete with his past (is his exes boyfriend "better" than him) and he no longer worries about whether or not he is (or has to be) better than Ramona's exes. He learns that it isn't about being better or worse than someone, but about being himself. The pilgrim has finished his journey.

  2. I can imagine a gender reversal of this too - just not one which gets turned into a mid-range Hollywood film. :-)

    I agree with (and enjoyed) your 'Scott Pilgrim as Bildungsroman' take on the film. I still think the central plot device is problematic though.