Scott Pilgrim and the Modern Man

I don’t really like Valentine Day. It’s a day where I’m supposed to buy something.  A recent tradition is that women will talk about women’s role in a relationship. Who give gifts, who gives what gifts, marriage proposals. I think it’s unfortunate men don’t get treated in the same way, that is self analysis of our position in society. People just assume that men don’t have anything to fight for because we’re already at the top of the ladder. I’ll show a shift in the image of man I think we neglect THROUGH SCOTT PILGRIM.

This is a topic I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s been crawling in the back of my brain in class after someone said, “Isn’t Scott Pilgrim basically just an average guy.” At first I thought that was terrible. Why would anyone want to be Scott Pilgrim? His life is fun, but only because he’s delusional. He’s not faithful. He’s not reliable. He’s not even the stupid archetype of the strong male fighter, with muscles abound and able to shoot a one-liner with every flex. But, I kept thinking about it, and you know what, they’re right, this is the new image of man.

This discussion is probably better suited to a lit essay or a something ‘professional’ but I’m in rant mode, so why not. As anyone who has turned on the television knows, the ideal conception of man is the brotherly, womanizing god, who can cry manly tears when he needs to and suffers the burden of the protection of his property. But we all know that’s fake now. There is no super-man like that, and in reality, such men are usually assholes. That’s what we’re taught, and that’s what we know from reality. This does not exist.

So of course the rational response is then to demonize that form. Thus, in reality we believe that men aren’tcouragous, they’re foolhardy. They can’t commit to a relationship. They’re powerless in the long run, and they can’t do anything without a woman. Really, the ideal man can be changed from a god to a horny adolescent. Now think about that, and think about Scott Pilgrim.

Scott is the modern understanding of man, a sort of child who is stuck in his fantasies. He’s a slacker, who doesn’t want to do anything if he doesn’t have to. He dates a 17-year-old to relax, and then abandons her for a cooler, more-hipster woman. His goal in life, when they exist, are limted to getting a girlfriend. He fights to defend her, but in a world that exists in his head via video game logic. The comic actually parodies how the fights have no meaning (except the last one, but more on that later). He beats an Indian pirate with the power of friendship, but that’s secondary to his goal to get Ramona and have an awesome band. Once they are over, he goes back to real life where his victories don’t really matter. If anything, Scott makes more trouble for himself by trying to ‘protect’ Ramona. They cause conflict between them, one of evil exes even kidnapps his friend, Kim.

SPOILERS GOING FORWARD

This is clearly just as wrong an understanding of masculinity as the first one. If you create an image where this is the norm, it’s fine to just be a delusional manchild because, you know what, that’s a man. Interestingly enough, the comic series and the movie recognize this, and Scott actually manages to grow out of it by the end. In the comic, Scott repeatedly comes across negative parallels of himself, in Negascott (all of his repressed memories of failure) and Gideon, who is Scott taken up to an obsessive extent. Gideon is the master of video game duels, except he’s played the game long enough that he knows all the rules. His own image of himself is a huge god who has Ramona drooling over him in chains. It’s literally all in his head (or Ramona’s in this case – long story, read the book) like Scott. By finally discovering this parallel, Scott is able to free himself from his pattern.

Gideon doesn’t take this stance in the film, here he’s more of an ultimate douchebag of hipsterdom. What’s more important is how Scott manages to defeat him. Scott has to die once, before he realizes how stupid he’s been. He realizes the reason he failed the first time was because he was always overconfident or underconfident, and his love for Ramona means nothing without self-respect. He doesn’t need to be a jerk to get what he wants, and he doesn’t need to idealize a woman or be idealized by a woman to have worth. He needs to know when he’s fighting for himself, and not for Ramona. (The latter revelation actually comes to Ramona in the comics, but if I go into that, this thing will never end) He shows that love can only go so far here, Scott has to change who he is. (This is why I think it was more appropriate for Scott to end up with Knives in the end, but that’s another story)

There’s more I want to say, but I really don’t have the effort or cohesive power to put an essay together right now. Instead I’ll say that Scott Pilgrim in either medium does an excellent deconstruction of the feeble modern man. I think we need more of this genre. There has to be reminders that neither the ideal image of man or the reactionary image of man is the valid interpretation. Though, after we’re through, what I really hope for is for some reconstruction. I want to see fiction that shows what a great modern man could be, rather than just showing us where we’ve gone wrong.

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Posted on February 14, 2011, in Comics, Daily Life, Movies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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