There are many many ways in which Scott Pilgrim is a good movie. Concept, editing, visuals, popcult refs, dialogue (sometimes), humour – it could have been brilliant, and there are some ways in which it is. In those ways,it is – it looks good, it’s sharp as hell,it does all sorts of clever things with visual tropes and analogy, and it’s funny as (or could be). However, as far as I can see, they seem to bypass ideology and character. Time is limited, so I’ll do this in bullet points, but these factors really damaged my enjoyment of the film, except in the sense in which I was frantically taking illegible notes of why it bothered me:
1) Scott’s an insensitive jerk. Almost invariably so. Being an insensitive jerk is not enough to make a well-rounded or likeable character. It’s perfectly possible to create a likeable character who has his heart in the right place and occasionally gets it wrong, or *can be* an insensitive jerk but tries hard and gets over it, but Scott manages neither of these things.
2) Why would insanely hot girl want to be with him? (oh, factor in favour of the film, Ramona is *totally* hot and not abnormally skinny, which is good. True, she’s also uni-dimensional, a plot function rather than a human being, and so ‘mysterious’ as to be a cipher – all we know about her as a person is that she’s dated 7 crazy people, we see her only in terms of her relation to – mostly male – others and she gets no interiority, but still. Kudos to the non-skinny.) She’s simply there to provide a foil for Scott and a motivation for his self-development. Like all the other women in the film, even Kim in the end, her ultimate function is to have a romantic relation to Scott, to allow him to prove his ‘nice guy’ness.
3) Because if you’re a bloke and you apologise for cheating, everyone’ll smile and pretend it didn’t happen. Honest. I’m the last person to proclaim monogamy as the only solution, but ffs. Dishonesty, cowardice, deceit, manipulation, not cool, and not quite so simple to mend as just saying ‘sorry’.
4) Men choose, women are chosen. Women have to wait for the men to fight itout and then go with the victor, cf Ramona at the end. For men (Scott) the process of maturation is learning to fight for themselves. Men get to assert (I want you out of my house, I want a record deal, I want that girl, etc etc.), women have to surrender (see below).
5) Women can only get what they want by surrendering any right to or desire for it. Like that conclusion. Ramona presumably wants Scott, so she tells him she can’t be with him because other people will get hurt and walks away. Knives, who’s wanted him up till right then that second, who’s just started a number of fights for him including several with Ramona, then says she doesn’t want him any more because she’s ‘too cool’ (she is, of course: further good point, she gets to grow over the course of the movie, conveniently for this sudden ending) and watches him walk away to his happy ending with another girl.
FEMALE VIRTUE IS SELF-SACRIFICE, FOLKS!! Cos yeah, we’ve moved on since the c17th…
6) Queer fail. Stereotypical gay clichés – predatory gay male thing, gaybestfriend there for rel advice, gay men shout things about clothes. It’s not that I mind the use of familiar tropes, just do something ideologically interesting with them, don’t just spout’em like they’re gospel! Also, possible dismissal of bisexuality as coherent identity?
7) Racefail. Orientalism, the whole ‘can you even date outside your race’ thing; dragons, BME people only in antagonistic or supporting roles. Again, no problem with using tropes – Oriental assassin girl, eg – big problem with lazily repeating them.
8) Self-assertion always seen in terms of masculinist aggression. Little space for women to publicly assert themselves.
As I said, there were many good things about the movie – it was funny, and there’s so much of it I’d really *really* have enjoyed if I could have liked Scott even a lil bit, and there were some ideologically nice touches (eg: Ramona saying she’s changed her mind about sex, but reserves the right to change it again. Distressing possibility much of audience would read that as her being fickle or manipulative or prickteasy, or take Scott’s response as ‘nice guy’ rather than the only possible response in the circumstances, but still, full marks.) And the ladies are pretty damn cool. And yes, again, it’s funny. But. But but fucking but (and no, not in an anal-sex-reference way.) I wish I could switch off the critical part of my brain, it’d make life a lot more comfortable, but this stuff matters. Because I want kids who watch this stuff to believe that girls deserve as much agency and interiority as boys, and gay or bisexual or queer people as much as heteronormative people, and BME people as much as white people, and in mainstream cinema, that ain’t happening.