Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is based on a series of comic books by the Korean-Canadian artist Bryan Lee O'Malley. The film adapts and condenses the seven volume series, which were originally written in a format similar to Asian manga. The film tells the story of Scott Pilgrim, a 20-something slacker that has been smitten by the Amazon delivery girl, Ramona Flowers. Before he can start dating Ramona, though, he has to defeat her seven evil exes (six men and one woman). The adaptation was directed by the British Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame. The film's genre is a mixture of romance, comedy, and ode to video game and nerd culture. The film is very current, with specific pop culture references that target audience members from the 20-25 range. This divided critical reception of the film. However, because of the current-ness and the heavy dose of nerd culture present in the film, this leads to different elements being used to construct masculinity in the film. Despite these new elements, though, the film does not remove the violence built into masculinity.
The nerd culture the film draws from completely shakes the mainstream conceptions of masculinity. The main character is Scott Pilgrim (played by Michael Cera). He is a slacker, sensitive, but still inconsiderate of others. The film chronicles his journey of love for Ramona Flowers and self-respect for himself. He lives in a small apartment with his gay roommate Wallace. They share a bed because Scott cannot afford one of his one, even comfortable enough to sleep there when Wallace (played by Kieran Culkin) has boyfriends over (played a gag several times). The film even shows an instance of fluid sexual orientation in men, where Scott's sister Stacey brings a (male) date to a concert. Wallace ends up seducing the boy. This becomes problematic because Wallace ends up falling into the stereotype associated with gay masculinity—oversexed.

Each of the male exes demonstrates mainstream masculine traits that make them “evil”, which translate in the film as self-centered assholes. Todd, a rock star, apologetically hits a girl that irritates him. Lucas is a so butch it hurts skateboarder that is goaded by Scott to perform an incredibly dangerous trick to impress girls (Lucas ends up exploding from not sticking the landing). The Katayanagi twins even demonstrate the Japanese mainstream conception of masculinity, but this fails them in their attempt to defeat Scott. So, the film does good in showing that certain masculine traits are bad, but it still does not remove violence from that construction. Scott defeats each one through (highly stylized) violence. Although there is no gore or blood shown in the film (each defeated ex turns into a pile of coins), it still demonstrates that Scott becomes a man by going through these violent trials.

The film initially show other ways to be masculine, with its nerdy male characters and its hip gay characters, but by the end of the film leaves some of the most problematic elements of masculinity intact. Scott learns to respect himself through violence, and Wallace ends up being portrayed as a sex fiend.

1 comment:

Maddie Z said...

While I have not seen this movie, I have heard a great deal about it from my own inundation into nerd culture. I'm almost tempted to read the books before watching the movie. I'm noticing this shift of masculine behaviors within society today. Movies and media are begining to shift their views of masculinity. While it is far from perfect, it's nice to see a film and book series such as this that begins to break away from the molds (if only a tiny bit).