Nate watches – Scott Pilgrim vs the World

This blog post will be for two kinds of people.

If you at least have some idea of what “Scott Pilgrim” is, you can continue.
If you have no idea what I mean when I said “Scott Pilgrim” just keep moving.

So… who is Scott Pilgrim?

Well when you travel in the circles that I do, you won’t go long before hearing about him, he is essentially the protagonist of a story series written by a geek for geeks.  The news that it would be turned into a movie – one which looked awesome by all trailer measures – filled the internet with joy.

Then… the movie premiered.

And did badly.

On its opening weekend, it lost to Inception, a movie that’s been out for like… a month. (according to IMDB as of this post, Inception is still in the top 10 box office for this week while Scott Pilgrim is nowhere to be seen)

There’s been no end of wailing and gnashing of teeth over this, and lots of lament over why it has failed.  These are my 2 favorite analysis of it.  What’s my thoughts on the bo-omb?  Simple, we tend to forget that we’re a minority.  It’s easy to forget when you’re in chat-rooms and sites with thousands, if not millions of visitors and commentators but keep in mind that there’s 6 billion+ people in the world.  What’s funny is that this is true of every group.  Imagine for a moment a group of 100 people.  33 like chocolate ice cream, 33 like vanilla ice cream, 33 like strawberry ice cream, and 1 person hates all ice cream.  See how if you pick any group (say, those who like chocolate) it will be a minority compared to those not in that group?  The only way to get a positive majority is to make your standard broad enough: those that like ANY kind of ice cream vs those that don’t.  In the same way, SPvtW had a fault in that it not only appeals to nerds, but it most appeals to a specific group of nerds that will be a minority based upon statistical common sense.

Plus I can’t be the only one that feels like the whole Scott Pilgrim thing is pushing the border on pandering.  For me, the strongest cornerstones of nerdom are those things which were great – and adopted by nerds: Star Wars, LotR, Harry Potter, Mario, etc etc.  They didn’t set out to be popular among a specific group of people, they set out to be awesome, good stories/works/projects/etc and geeks latched onto them.  To me, it seems like Scott Pilgrim is the final step before the corporate robots take over and churn out products that – according to “science” (aka “market research”) – SHOULD be loved by geeks and SHOULD have whole nerd cultures rally around – and inevitably fail like so many soulless creations.

But no, I won’t call Scott Pilgrim soulless, there is definitely a soul to this film even if it’s in danger of drowning under postmodern tides.  This is definitely THE date movie for nerd couples (both partners must be full nerds) excluding the Princess Bride.  However, the film’s success also depends on how much goodwill it earns from you.  There’s plenty of general silliness and wackiness through every frame, but if you don’t like that, this movie cannot stand up to withering critique.  Far more effort is devoted to why the characters do what they do than why anything happens at all.  Where Scott Pilgrim got his fighting ability is less important than why he is fighting at all.

The actors all do a pretty good job, and seem to be having a lot of fun – though sometimes it seems like Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead need to lighten up a bit more.  If anything this movie suffers the problem of a lot of adaptions in that it has a large glut of characters. Look, Anna Kendrick is all kinds of cuteness and was pretty hot in this movie – but why did she need to be there?  Could her part have been folded into and combined with someone else? (say, the drummer?)  And while I haven’t read the actual story, everything I’ve read about it makes me think that it and the movie both suffer from the same problem: Knives drags down the story.  It might not be so bad – she might even serve a purpose – when you have larger, serialized works like the graphic novel this is based on, but time is precious in movie format.  It becomes even worse when she shows up at the end to help Scott fight Gideon (I checked, in the final comic it’s Ramona helping Scott – which would have improved the movie by 200%).

One minor thing did really bug me.  Ramona’s and Scott’s first real date concludes with them cuddling in her bed in their underwear.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with Mary Elizabeth Winstead in her underwear, but what I’m about to say is a service to any gal reading this:
You don’t have to go far on the internet to find talk on “what is consent” (here’s 1 example).  Of course, everyone agrees on the black and white extremes of consent, what is debated is the gray middle.  If you ask me, consent is given by body language as much as notarized forms.  Thus, if you invite someone into your bed while you both wear nearly nothing: that’s pretty much consent.  Girls, well guys too, if you change your mind (like Ramona does in the scene) then don’t continue to leave the invitation open.  Kick the other person out of your bed, go put more clothes on (preferably a suit of armor), go sleep in another room – or zip code – whatever.  Yeah, the other party should have self-control but 1) counting on it will end very badly and 2) lead others not into temptation – don’t be a dick/bitch.  3rd most important rule my dad taught me about life: Hope for the best in people, but never count on it.

But let’s end on some positive notes.  The comedy is pretty funny (I laughed the hardest at the window scene) and the fight choreography is BEAUTIFUL.  Seriously, I wish more fights in movies were done like this.  I also appreciated that they really stretched what a movie is capable of – pushing the limits of the visual medium.

All in all for me this was about…

It’s pretty good, it did make me laugh a lot, I wouldn’t hate seeing it again, but it’s not something I’ll be referencing often or buying when it comes out. There’s certainly much much worse movies out there.

UPDATE: I would be remiss if I didn’t link the very handy cracked reference to it.

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24 thoughts on “Nate watches – Scott Pilgrim vs the World

  1. Here’s my whole problem with SP:

    Taking O’Malley at his word and looking at the references to it in the comics, Scott Pilgrim is an homage to video game culture. Specifically it is a send up to the Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun series of games (known to us gaijin as the series where River City Ransom, Super Dodgeball, as well as Crash and the Boys, comes from).

    Why is this a problem?

    1. His focus on the homage leaves little to in-depth character development past the usual tropes.

    2. The dialogue is meant to be hammy. But that doesn’t excuse it for being so. Being ‘retro’ gives an artist an opportunity to both comment on previous styles and comment on how that style speaks to us in the present. This was just pandering.

    It wasn’t a bad movie….just wasn’t a particularly good one IMHO.

    PS: If you want a true River City Ransom movie, just go to X-Strike Studios and get River City Rumble (http://x-strikestudios.com/Store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=1)

    • “The service you are doing is to warn women to stay away from you.”

      Probably really boring ones. Give me a girl who makes Doctor Who references while wearing D&D pajamas, whilst carrying a copy of “The Hobbit” any day.

      • It doesn’t seem like you understood what I was referring to. I was being flippant, so I apologize if it was vague. It was also unnecessarily ad hominem — I just get a bit weary of stuff like this and lazily want to vent rather than to engage with it intellectually. But I think anyone who has put thought into something deserves that, so I’m going to try to explain my thinking.

        What I am referring to is the patronizing tone in which Mr. Winchester offers a “service to any gal reading this” and the cringe-inducing italicized phrase “that’s pretty much consent.” (Really, I don’t think you realize how creepy that comes across.) Rachel does a good job responding to that below, especially with pointing out that there is responsibility on the part of the man to remove himself from a situation in which he cannot trust himself not to do something wrong.

        As usual, the responsibility is placed on women’s for men’s behavior. You throw in a “the other party should have self-control,” but you make it clear that to count on that self-control is to be a “dick/bitch.” Instead of offering up a service to us “gals” why not offer some advice to your own sex? (I’ll give you a little advice there — most women do not like to be referred to as “gals.”) Why not say, “Yes, Ramona withdraws consent while simultaneously saying she might feel differently later, and it is perfectly within her rights to do so.

        We can acknowledge that women always have to be wary about our safety — believe me, we know this — while at the same time pushing men to change attitudes that threaten women’s safety and autonomy.

        As a nerdy aside, the final boss’s name is Gideon, not Gabriel.

        And the best of luck to ftidus in getting that made-to-order woman.

      • Well looks like my eleoquent and stunning reply (which contained the answers to life, the universe, and everything) was lost to the internet demons so I’ll just sum up here.

        1) Looks like part of the whole debate is on whether body language counts or not. I say it does as last time I lived/studied humans communicated as much through action as by words. (how many pithy sayings are there to this effect?) You, at least, seem to disagree. So I believe it is upon you to explain why this time, body language and actions do not speak louder than words.

        2) No one’s denying any responsibility. Indeed I’ve written far more than just this 1 post so I’d be reluctant to claim I need to give advice to men without seeing whether – in fact – I have ever given advice to other men. However… let’s use a less explosive example. Is it “victim-blaming” to tell children not to play in the street, even though it is fully the drivers’ responsibilities to stop/swerve and avoid hitting/killing another human being with their vehicle?

        And look 1) women are not the only ones whose safety and autonomy is threatened every day. I’m pretty sure we can pick a plethora of locations throughout the world in any time of history to see men’s safety and autonomy threatened as well by ruling powers, bandits, etc. We all fight for freedom. 2) If you are trusting the cad (who will always be around and always try to find some way to exploit the system) to maintain your virtue, you will find yourself disappointed – or worse – by the end of the day.

  2. Hi. I found this via the pingback on my article; I wonder if you even bothered to read it, or just linked to it as a convenient straw man.

    Yes, consent has gray areas–but despite your protestations to the contrary, you seem to see it as a concrete, black-and-white matter. In practical terms, consent is a dynamic, ongoing exchange, not a single, binding commitment. To claim that initial consent should render an individual’s later boundaries less valid; or to read implicit consent beyond someone’s very specific, articulated limits veers far into the territory of victim-blaming, and your description of your sanctimonious tirade as “a service to the gals” is patronizing and frankly fucking insulting.

    To withdraw consent isn’t to tease; nor does initiating a sexual encounter imply ANY commitment to see it through to to the money shot.

    As it happens, I loved that scene in Scott Pilgrim–partially because it rang very true to personal experience. Ramona handles that situation incredibly ethically: she goes as far as she is willing or comfortable, then establishes both her limits and the fact that they’re not necessarily long-term–and I can’t imagine anything I’d value more in a partner than that kind of straightforwardness and self-understanding. That’s not manipulation; that’s honesty, and if her partner is incapable of respecting those limits while in the bed with her, the onus is on him to remove himself from the situation.

    • Hi. I found this via the pingback on my article; I wonder if you even bothered to read it, or just linked to it as a convenient straw man.

      If that was true I would have linked to counter arguments from such low lifes like those linked to the game movement. Look around, I only link to things I consider worth reading by anyone. I thought your advice on writing rape scenes quite spot on.

      Yes, consent has gray areas–but despite your protestations to the contrary, you seem to see it as a concrete, black-and-white matter

      I believe I explained as much.

      In practical terms, consent is a dynamic, ongoing exchange, not a single, binding commitment. To claim that initial consent should render an individual’s later boundaries less valid; or to read implicit consent beyond someone’s very specific, articulated limits veers far into the territory of victim-blaming, and your description of your sanctimonious tirade as “a service to the gals” is patronizing and frankly fucking insulting.

      Actually I largely agree, the only difference seems to be that I think any later boundaries gals decide to invoke should be done with action as well as words. My words are only as “victim-blaming” as any self-defense class (disclosure: one of my best friends actually teaches a women’s self defense course) that teaches its students how to make themselves unappealing targets of crime. I repeat again: hope for the best, plan for the worst. And the insult is only such if you choose. After all, as someone who writes, I could say that your advice to writers is “patronizing and frankly fucking insulting” couldn’t I?

      As for the rest, is it ideal? Sure. Is it likely? Not very. Is it smart? Not at all. If they had been dating for long enough she knew him – maybe – but not with a complete stranger.

      • Few quick points. Not doing the embedded quote thing to avoid a potential indentation clusterfuck.

        1. Yes, you claim to see consent as shades of gray. But the actual view you then articulate is remarkably black-and-white, effectively denies the validity of either withdrawal of consent or on-the-fly establishment of boundaries.

        2. The idea of physical or implied consent–especially when it directly contradicts explicitly established boundaries or lack of consent–is one I absolutely disagree with. Actually, your argument about Ramona and Scott just having met is, IMO, the strongest argument *against* the validity of implicit consent in that scene: while it could make sense to trust someone you knew EXTREMELY well, and with whom you had previously and extensively discussed boundaries and consent, to establish consent through physical action or insinuation, doing the same with a new partner would be massively, massively suspect.

        3. Our difference of opinion mostly seems to relate to the question of responsibility for maintaining boundaries. In my opinion, Scott (generalize to “an individual in Scott’s relative position”; ditto, Ramona) is solely responsible for his behavior; in yours, Ramona is implicitly responsible for–or at least a mitigating circumstance to–Scott’s decisions and actions.

        4. You write that “I think any later boundaries gals decide to invoke should be done with action as well as words.” How is telling someone you don’t want to have sex with them and then not having sex with them not doing that? Making out in bed in underwear is not sex, nor does consent to one imply consent to the other; you claim that Ramona should know better than to trust a guy she just met not to rape her in her sleep; I’d argue that if it’s that slippery a slope, you end up with a paradigm where *any* sexual contact–hell, maybe even a conversation–reads as implied consent to sex; which, again, ends with the ladies as sole gatekeepers of sexuality because the poor mens just can’t resist temptation. Which is bullshit.

        5. Actually, a lot of the rhetoric of women’s self-defense courses smacks of victim-blaming, too. It’s generally not deliberate or malicious, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there–nor that there aren’t viable alternatives.

        There’s a *really* fine line between empowerment and the need for realistic and concrete coping strategies in a rape culture, and victim blaming. Here’s the thing: A rape victim can make a series of terrible decisions, totally in the face of common sense and social etiquette, but she is still in no way responsible for the fact that someone raped her, nor do any of those bad decisions excuse or mitigate her rapist’s actions. Treating the two as cause and effect is victim-blaming.

        6. You could say that my advice to writers is “patronizing and frankly fucking insulting,” but you’d look like an ass, because I’m a professional editor (and, relevant to the linked column, an experienced anti-sexual-assault activist and crisis advocate), writing well with my field of professional expertise. Are you a professional adviser-of-wayward-ladies? No? Then you might want to keep that particular analogy to yourself.

      • 3. Our difference of opinion mostly seems to relate to the question of responsibility for maintaining boundaries. In my opinion, Scott (generalize to “an individual in Scott’s relative position”; ditto, Ramona) is solely responsible for his behavior; in yours, Ramona is implicitly responsible for–or at least a mitigating circumstance to–Scott’s decisions and actions.

        This idea is more your own imagination than anything I ever said. You have committed the excluded middle fallacy – assuming an either/or, mutually exclusive, situation. I merely see it as an “and” situation.

        At some point you completely went off the rails into the bizzarro universe, where giving sound tactical advice to one side is counted as aiding and abetting the opposing side. Which any sane, rational human being (of which I’ll admit are fewer every day) can see is ludicrous. You may as well argue that the parent who tells their children not to play in the road of not loving said children and excusing of reckless drivers. Quite frankly ma’am, it is as much gibberish as if you had your pet dance across the keyboard.

  3. The problem with your argument is that it’s laboring under notions like what women “should” do, what by your definition a “smart” decision would be, and women needing to “make themselves unappealing”. Which is why “victim blaming” absolutely applies to this post and your subsequent responses. Because you are setting yourself up as some kind of arbiter of what is and is not consent, and therefore what is and is not a “deserved” rape of some kind. That’s pretty…rife with issues.

    The only way to prevent rape is for someone to not be a rapist. An individual can take as many or as few precautions to “prevent” sexual assault, but it’s irrelevant. It still doesn’t make the act of rape their fault or them stupid/responsible for doing/not doing what anyone else deems to be the “right” way to prevent rape. In the end, the sole and only responsibility lies with the rapist not to rape. It’s not like that’s a difficult thing to avoid being. I think we seriously do a disservice to men by accepting anything less than that.

    One of the best things about that scene is Scott’s reaction. Which is that he understands and accepts it. That is precisely the kind of response anyone who is not a rapist should have. Anyone who doesn’t have that response, or thinks it would be reasonable for someone not to, or that it’s the woman’s fault for not predicting it, is rape apologizing.

    The fact that a friend of yours teaches a women’s self-defense class doesn’t really have any bearing on this. It doesn’t make you an expert or negate legitimate concerns with your argument. Which largely seems to be: it is a woman’s job to continuously “prevent” rape in ways that those outside the situation deem “appropriate”. Otherwise she has given some form of “consent” which is deemed by either you or the other person based on their individual definition of it.

    The problem with your “body language” argument is that, to some people, a woman smiling and talking to them would be akin to consent. A kiss would be consent. Or hell, just being a woman they want to sleep with. None of those things equal actual consent. Nothing does, except clear and enthusiastic consent. If you haven’t gotten that, then STOP. And make sure you are both clear. Simple as that. The above situation is very clear in every way. Ramona says I don’t want to have sex. Done. Her state of undress is completely and totally irrelevant. You misread the article you linked to if you think it validates your argument in any way. Discussing potential grey areas doesn’t mean that it’s okay to assume you have consent from someone who has expressly said no or not given clear consent. Otherwise a girl better put on a shirt or else she deserves whatever happens. There is no such thing as “asking for it” when it comes to rape.

    The fact that some men have trouble with this is an issue with the misconception that women are default consenting unless they say no. They are default no until they consent and may change their minds. Because women are granting access, not giving something up. Women’s bodies belong to them. We do not at any time abdicate that, not even when we consent to sexual activities. Nor does consenting to one activity (kissing) mean we have consented to anything else. That’s the thing that “should” be obvious, and any “smart” man would know and assume that. All the men I know don’t become uncontrollable rapists just because they make out with a girl or she has on a limited amount of clothing. So far as I know, there’s no “amount of clothing” to “becomes a rapist” ratio. If an individual thinks that there is, then they have a serious problem. And I’m kind of wondering who gets to define that, again. Like, is a short skirt enough? Or does it requires no shirt? What about bathing suits? Or is there a type of shoe that implies consent? Since rape is about power, not sex, the clothing to rape ratio is arbitrary and meaningless.

    Women’s bodies are not open access and it’s not a women’s job to keep men from becoming rapists. That abdicates responsibility from the perpetrator and that’s why things don’t change. It’s not because women don’t try hard enough to prevent rape or are too stupid to know when someone is going to be a rapist.

    Women really don’t need a refresher course in how we are, every day of their lives, under some degree of physical threat. That, at any time, some guy could decide that their bodies do not belong to them. They know that. Condescending to tell them how they “should” prevent rape, and what is acceptable to you or else they have “pretty much consented” is about the inability to understand the skewed perspective of your argument.

    To quote Rachel:
    “There’s a *really* fine line between empowerment and the need for realistic and concrete coping strategies in a rape culture, and victim blaming. Here’s the thing: A rape victim can make a series of terrible decisions, totally in the face of common sense and social etiquette, but she is still in no way responsible for the fact that someone raped her, nor do any of those bad decisions excuse or mitigate her rapist’s actions. Treating the two as cause and effect is victim-blaming.”

    • The problem with your argument is that it’s laboring under notions like what women “should” do, what by your definition a “smart” decision would be, and women needing to “make themselves unappealing”.

      Wait. Wait… hold on, full stop there. Last I checked, all of your arguments are laboring under the notions of what men “should” do, using your own definitions and what men need to do etc etc. It seems that by your own reasoning, your own arguments are invalid.

  4. 17 comments and half of them about rape. You poked the wrong hornet nest, man.

    Can’t we all just agree that Ramona was a real jerk for blueballing Scott? And that Scott -totally- deserved it?

    As for me, I liked the movie. I intend to buy the books. I disagree with your opinion about Knives, but that may change after I have read the books, depending on how different her portrayal is.

    • (what are you kidding? I’ve gotten the 2nd biggest hit amounts on my blog ever! I should unintentionally troll more often or something.)

      Dude, whatever else, you can’t deny that have Ramona fight with Scott to take down Gideon would have much improved the ending the movie was going for (though there are rumors or something that originally the ending had Scott ending up with Knives).

      Besides, she made a cuter couple with young Neil than she did with Scott anyway.

  5. Ah, the smell of pretentious bullshit wafts through the internet like the bouquet from an especially bad bottle of wine.

    “6. You could say that my advice to writers is “patronizing and frankly fucking insulting,” but you’d look like an ass…”

    You mean the same way you look like an ass now, Rae-Rae?

    “….because I’m a professional editor (and, relevant to the linked column, an experienced anti-sexual-assault activist and crisis advocate), writing well with my field of professional expertise.”

    …and yet you rant and stamp your feet like five year old, and completely miss the point the author was making. Not very professional and not the behavior I would expect from someone who has spent significant time working with victims of sexual assault.

    “…Are you a professional adviser-of-wayward-ladies? No? Then you might want to keep that particular analogy to yourself.”

    I, on the other hand, have spent over 19 years working as a Mental Health Counselor and I specialize in Sexual Trauma. So I CAN tell you that YOUR tirade is “patronizing and frankly fucking insulting”.

    His tone may be off and I don’t agree 100%, but I saw nothing catastrophically wrong with what the author stated. Certainly nothing that would give you grounds to behave so petulantly and so irrationally.

    I suggest you reevaluate your behavior, as your kind of ranting, immaturity does a disservice to those of us who actually WORK in the field.

  6. Since only rapists rape, and an overwhelming majority of men are NOT rapists, statistically most women don’t have anything to worry about sleeping in their undies next to a man in bed.

    Unless you want to make the argument that “all men are potential rapists”.

    That’s a way to attract Men’s Rights Activists like me to your site.

    Women don’t need to be afraid of me nor most men.

  7. “Statistically most women don’t have anything to worry about sleeping in their undies next to a man in bed. ”

    Statistically it is more likely that you will be struck by lightning than attacked by a shark. I still wouldn’t go swimming with steak swim trunks.

    Try again, sunny.

  8. A very simplistic and unrealistic view, Mitch.

    All humans by virtue of our sexual evolution have the potential
    for sexual aggression. Rapists are not a rogue sub-species of human, they are a result of humans giving in to base impulses, something that is omnipresent. As such ALL humans have the potential to become sexual predators (even if for what seems to be a split second for the perpetrator). As a victim of sexual assault, I am wary of all persons for this reason

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