Monday, April 05, 2010

Renegade April: Scott Pilgrim: some thoughts

The Scott Pilgrim trailer has generated an inordinate amount of nerd excitement, and I can see why. Writing as a man who hasn’t read the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, I can attest that I’m genuinely excited for this film, which (from the trailer) seems to unite energy, humor, and sincere sentiment in a way I haven’t seen before. I appreciate the comic book and video game tropes, I’m enthusiastic about a light-hearted, exaggerated approach to action (see The Rundown, one of my favorite action movies EVAR) and I welcome the heartfelt romantic subplot that I detect at the start of the trailer, reminiscent as it is of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Is it too early for a little bit of analysis? I’d say yes, but every other blog is doing it… picking the trailer apart, frame by frame, to affectionately compare it to the graphic novel. I don’t see the harm in applying a little bit of my own approach to interpretation, even if the movie is still months away, and I haven’t actually engaged with the story or the characters. After all, the trailer makes the general premise pretty clear, and that, in itself, is worth looking at.

And what I see is a social metaphor that has a lot of potential. We’ve all been there before, right? At the onset of a relationship, one of the first things we have to wrestle with is our new love interest’s romantic history, and sometimes that romantic history seems to dictate all the terms of the new relationship. This usually involves coming to terms with all those exes, who are still out there, and may still be part of that love interest’s life. You may have to hear a lot of stories about the kinds of guys they were. You may have to endure comparisons to them, as painful as that may be. You may even have to meet them and shake hands with them.

Having to confront them on the battlefield? Prove their match in a test of skill and courage? Perhaps destroy them? It sounds harsh… does it trivialize the process? Invalidate the metaphor? Wouldn’t you rather Scott just say, “Ramona, if you’re really into me, you’ll have to stop letting these old relationships define you, and get these guys out of your life”? Here’s the thing, though: that’s not how it works. Nobody gets to just cut themselves off from their romantic history, because that’s what’s made them capable of making a new relationship work. So it’s not up to Ramona Flowers to excise her past from her life.

It turns out the “defeating the exes” metaphor is pretty accurate, because getting over your new mate’s romantic history is a journey you always have to undertake. Read metaphorically, this is Scott’s journey to “defeat” the exes by taking control of the relationship, asserting himself as the most important man in Ramona’s life, and securing his role as her champion. In real life, it probably wouldn’t involve dragon punching anyone… rather, it would involve always being the smarter, better-behaving, and stronger-willed partner, able to meet those old crushes with confidence in himself and loyalty to his girlfriend. The exes aren’t going to vanish without a fight, but Scott can find a way to marginalize them, change their role in the relationship, and put them in the place they deserve: former prospects who may still hang around, but who no longer set the terms of the budding relationship.

So it's a metaphor of single-handed combat as a road to peace, paralleling the struggle with insecurity, eventually leading to inner peace. YOU WIN. FLAWLESS VICTORY.

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