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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Flawed, but cute, but flawed

This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.

Allright people, let's talk Scott Pilgrim.

On the one hand, we've got three ass-kicking ladies: Ramona, Knives, and Roxy. Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) carries something in her purse you totally wouldn't expect, and for those of you who haven't seen it, I'm not going to tell you. Knives (Ellen Wong) is a woman of color in the under 18 category and turns out to be way more fierce than you would expect, so that's cool. (Also, her name is KNIVES and no one seems to think that's the least bit strange.) Roxy (Mae Whitman) is basically the tough gal who's trying to stuff Scott Pilgrim in a trash can. We've also got one fabulous female musician, Kim (Alison Pill), who isn't kicking ass in the combat way but definitely gets the job done where percussion is involved. And then, we have at least THREE MORE female characters with names and speaking parts (Scott's sister Anna, acquaintance Julie, and ex-girlfreind Natalie/Envy).

I didn't realize how many regular action movies I'd been watching until I realized that a speaking cast of about 50% women felt like a luxury. Ouch.

On the other hand, I need y'all to give me a reality check on something.

For those who don't know, the plot is basically that Scott Pilgrim must vanquish Ramona's seven evil exes in order to date her. He defeats his six male opponents with a mixture of physical prowess, musical performance, determination, psychological manipulation, trickery, friendship, and self-respect.

Was I right to be super-annoyed that Scott defeats his one female opponent by essentially making her have an orgasm?

Because aside from that, I was having a damn good time watching this movie. Kieran Culkin as Scott's roommate Wallace was killing me, especially in his interactions with Scott's sister and her boyfriend. Ramona's clothes are lovely and if I were 10 years younger and lived somewhere with snow, I would immediately begin replicating her outfits. The plot is focused on Scott and his relationships with women, but the female characters aren't just plot devices. They each have a distinct personality and they're real, fleshed-out characters. Aside from Knives, three of the evil exes are men of color and there is a female drummer aside from Kim who looks Asian - not stellar diversity, but certainly something.

But there's that one fight scene between Scott and Roxy, and it left such a bad taste in my mouth. Roxy was so badass, but Scott won't hit a girl, so Ramona has to take over... and then give him the hint on how to defeat Roxy... which is to get her hot. And Ramona knows this because she messed around with Roxy during a phase. The lesbian/lesbians joke that you might have seen in the previews struck me as funny because it was a joke at Scott's expense about his own mind. The fight between Roxy and Scott didn't quite work out the same way.

Disappointingly, my gut feeling is that So Close is the best description, so I'm going with two stars. I had really looked forward to this one, but meh.

Anyone who saw it (or read it) feel differently? I haven't gotten far enough into the comic to see if this was a direct lift from print to screen.

11 Comments

Okay now I have to comment on my own post to say HELLO, the only men of color are EVIL EXES. Now there are certainly plenty of evil white exes, but where are our non-evil men of color? So this further reinforces my rating but does not reflect well on my thinking process. I'm sure this means I need more ice cream.

"Was I right to be super-annoyed that Scott defeats his one female opponent by essentially making her have an orgasm?"

YES!! This bothered me so much.

That aside, I just got back from seeing this tonight and seem to be in the minority in that I really, really disliked it. I didn't like the plot revolving around women being a prize for completing a quest to defeat a bunch of guys she's dated (but maybe my slut-shaming radar is oversensitive lately) and ultimately I didn't like Scott himself. This movie left me really cold despite all the fun, superficial things I liked.

It bothered me, too. I didn't like the phase thing purely because there weren't any permalesbians aside from the evil one (there is extra bisexuality in the comics, but it's all fairly trivial - I don't like to dismiss incidental bisexuality or erase fluid feminine sexuality, but for a comic with that many gay dudes and women in it you'd think some of the women would be lesbians.)

The fight scene, however, was entirely disappointing and entirely the movie's fault - people actually called Scott on the can't-hit-a-girl thing in the comic, and they have a normal fight. With swords. I have no idea why they stuck in the stupid puppet-fight and the knee thing, it was a bit shit. I mean what, did they think their target audience would go BOO, TOO MANY AWESOME SWORD FIGHTS IN THIS MOVIE or what?

Oh wait, I remember, they needed to save the sword-fighting for Gideon, because they cut out most of the other stuff that made him bad-ass.

Yeah, I'm still stuck on that female-as-object-to-be-won-through-demonstration-of-manly-prowess thing. No desire to see it. Despite assurances from my nerdy compatriots that this movie IS the film of our generation. (Really? Because I never had a nintendo when I was a kid, and to this day don't do video games).

I feel like I should like this film, given that it's marketed to folks who probably belong to the same pop cultural demographics. My peers all seem to love it, and keep encouraging me to see it. However, the fact that the marketing kept mentioning that Scott Pilgrim had to defeat "ex-boyfriends," when I knew that one of them was a woman, really rubbed me the wrong way. I am also generally turned off by stories where a boy needs to do something to get the girl. Since stories about men are so common in pop culture, I was already not interested in the film for this reason. And now, to find out that the ex-girlfriend is defeated because Pilgrim gets her off? FFS! No way am I see this now.

Patrick said at August 19, 2010 7:59 AM:

I really didn't like the comics – I stopped reading them after book 3, I think, and only got so far because so many people suggested them to me –, so I'm somewhat happy that the film seems to be in a similar vein and I can wait to see it on DVD :)

I agree! The Roxy scene was so weird. I actually just wrote a blog post about it too, but didn't really get anywhere. What was Wright thinking? Why doesn't she get a proper death? Why does Ramona help here? Is it supposed to be misplaced chivalry, or what? I cannot wrap my head about it, and my friends are sick of talking about it, I think. =]

@Skye: I'm not sure the racial theory pans out. At first I was like "Oh, you're totally right!" But you've got Roxy, the vegan (he was pasty, wasn't he?) and the action hero seemed just tan and buff to me. Also, there are the Asian twins, but Knives seems to prove there's nothing to see there. Any more thoughts?

I just watched this for the first time, and although I loved the nerdy parts, I was seriously thrown by misogynistic undertones. Talk about disappointing. I'm still digesting my thoughts on this movie.

Michelle said at December 19, 2010 1:58 AM:

Am I the only one who thinks it is fucked up that Knives, and 17 year old starts off dating Scott, a 22 year old?

Also the main girl, hell I don't even remember her name because she has no other purpose to be some ultimate trophy for the main character. Seriously, he vanquishes opponents for her.

The cinematics were great, but the whole story is some male nerd's fantasy.

King Damo said at December 25, 2010 7:17 PM:

i dont mean to be sexist or anything, but as everyone has noticed the movie has a direct reference to video games, and everyone is saying they dislike the idea of ramona being a trophy girlfriend, i dislike it when its put into that phrasing, and call me a romantic, but by having to defeat the 'seven-evil-ex's' to be with ramona is shows that yes, some guys will go to great lengthes to prove they love a woman.

the reason i mention video games, is that how many early-era video games show the standard 'damsel-in-distress' stigma, and 'scott pilgrim' is as much a tribute to early video games as love story for 'nerdy-guys' and women with a fondenes for comic books.

now the defeating roxy via giving her an orgasm, i found that extremely funny, i dont know whether thats because im a guy or what, but i found it amusing, and if i had defeat a woman by giving her an orgasm, i would attempt the orgasm, now im a virgin, so i would probably (more than likely) fail that feat, because like scott, i would not fight a woman.

i have not read the comic books, but i assume from what people have said there is a fight scene between scott and roxy with swords, now i can only speculate as to why they cut it, but the most plausible is that the film will have a lot of its viewers be somewhere between the ages of 8 and higher, by cuttingthe fight scene between roxy and scott, the makers of the film are trying to say that violence against women is wrong and not to do it, and the safety of not mentioning that he defeats her via the orgasm in words, the meaning of what happened is going to go straight over the younger viewers heads.

to make up for the fight between scott and roxy, we get the fight between ramona and roxy, which i thought was pretty cool, and when ramona pulls the giant hammer from her bag, i immediately thought, 'MARIO!', i thought that fight scene was pretty cool, also, i thought it said to the viewers that yes, if she needs to, ramona can fight for herself.

now the 'phase' thing between ramona and roxy, how many movies have depicted what ive seen called the 'college-phase', ramona is what, 21-22? a pahse is something that the personis, but they grow out of it, much like the whole 'emo' thing, which i grew out of, but when a phase comes to sexuality, its more about finding yourself and experimentation, and ramona still being young, says yeah, she has experimented with other women, so what? in this day and age, sexuality isnt as much a topic for debate as it used to, so people have the freedom to do what they like, so let ramona have her phase.

im sorry if i have offended some people, thats not my purpose, i just wanted to put my 2 cents in, although it seems to have become 20 dollars, sorry about how i myrant seems to have extended itself into an essay

Rose said at March 31, 2012 11:05 PM:

Actually, Roxy's defeat was a shout-out to Envy's weak point in the books but because of time constraints, neither Envy's characterization nor Roxy's were properly explored as they were in the books.
The reason it had to be Roxy was because none of the other exes post-Roxy actually fought Scott hand-to-hand except Gideon...and now that I think about it, it would've been waaaay more hilarious if Scott had prodded Gideon's weak point in the back of his knees. Unfortunately, in the movie-- as well as in the books-- Gideon was supposed to be cold in terms of affection, thus Ramona would not have known.
In the books, Scott physically fought the Twins but because he would have had to defeat them at the same time (in order to get the extra life) he wouldn't have been able to do it to them.
Scott didn't even TOUCH Todd, so they couldn't have done that. Ramona specifically stated that she only ever kissed Matthew ONCE and that Lucas was a snot-nosed brat, so it'd be obvious that she wouldn't know their weak points.
Thus, the joke fell to Roxy, and let's be completely honest, would you rather have had Scott actually punch Roxy and defeat her like that or would you rather keep the prod joke?
Personally, I think the joke was the best way to go.
For one, it's hilarious. Secondly, if Scott suddenly started punching Roxy, wouldn't that have left an even WORSE taste in your mouth than Roxy's soft spot? I mean, he punched her in the boob earlier in the movie, would you he really, HONESTLY wanted more of that?
And even if you did, what would that say about EVERYTHING? If Scott did start genuinely fighting Roxy, wouldn't he be just as bad as Todd? That would've been bad for Scott's psyche that they wouldn't even be able to point out in the movie because of the aforementioned time constraints so that would've left a few questions hanging.
Not only that, but weak little Scott who got his butt handed to him by Lucas Lee is suddenly powerful enough to turn the tide in a fight with kickass ninja Roxy Richter? Really? Either that says something about Roxy or something about Scott. And no, Scott losing isn't really possible or else he dies, because as they say, they're fights to the death.
Which brings up an even bigger point, you're not okay with Scott winning with a prod, but would you have been okay with Scott actually beating up Roxy to the point of death? Video game death with coins and junk, but death nonetheless. Somehow, it just seems worse if Scott had actually, actively fought her and the prod joke just seems like the best course of action because there was really no other way due to Dad Chau being cut.
In conclusion, the prod joke was funniest and 'only-est' way to defeat Roxy and you should really read the books and re-watch the movie because they're both good.

These are my opinions and I'm sticking to 'em.

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