On the ride home from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Weezer’s “Only in Dreams” came on the radio. Let’s forget for a moment how amazing it was that the obscure final track on Weezer’s Blue Album was being played randomly on the radio some 16 years after its release, and focus on the fact that in high school, I had assigned this song to one of my many ‘dream girls,’ Carolyn Ross.

Carolyn was smokin’ hot and a year older than me. We went to the movies once, she came to one of my band’s gigs and she even went to the Christmas Dance with me. Around the time I was obsessed with Carolyn I was also obsessed with the Blue Album and “Only in Dreams” was her song.  

Carolyn would pick me up in the morning in her giant Buick, which she would drive at breakneck speeds through the windy, Northern Jersey back roads leading to our school. One morning, a cop car pulled up in front of my house right behind her with its lights flashing as my dad and I looked out the window. “Well,” I said awkwardly, “that’s my ride.”  

“It’s okay,” Carolyn assured me as I got in the passenger seat. “I can’t get a ticket in this town.”  

Sure enough, the cop took one look at her license and said, “Ross, huh? Your father’s done me a lot of favors. So I’ll do you one and let you go.”  

So that was sketchy. Other sketch-factors included the fact that she had a boyfriend who was in college and spent most of the evening of my band’s show flirting with the bouncer after he confiscated her fake I.D. Oh, and I almost forgot how her cousin threatened to beat me up after he saw us leaving the movie theater together.   

How did I dedicate such a great song to this person? Looking back on it this past Friday night, I felt ashamed of myself.  

You have a hunch Scott Pilgrim will feel the same way years from now when he looks back on the time he fought seven evil exes to win the heart of Ramona Flowers, the new girl in town with hot style (snow melts when she rollerblades through it), a cool demeanor and a questionable past.

Let’s just say for the record that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a fun time. It’s funny, it’s violent, it’s got music written by Beck – what more can you ask for? It’s like someone took Reality Bites and Mortal Kombat and somehow made them into one thing.  

The film plays out in a sort of heightened reality with text zipping across the screen, a laugh-track to accompany Scott’s happy-go-lucky mood and, of course, gratuitous fight scenes in which Scott suddenly acquires anime-inspired martial arts skills despite his lack of training/motivation/physical fitness.  

The heightened reality is used to create external manifestations of each character’s emotions (similar to the songs in a musical), and the entire spectacle serves as an allegory for the joys, challenges and perils of dating as a 20-something. The evil exes represent the baggage that people bring into relationships. And Scott’s battles represent the sometimes emotionally violent experience of dealing with that baggage.

All of that sounds pretty deep, so it’s disappointing that the characters turn out to be so shallow.  Even Michael Cera, who everyone just wants to hug, can’t quite manage to make Scott Pilgrim likable. And the most interesting thing about his dream-girl, Ramona Flowers, is her constantly changing hair color.

So Scott risks life and limb to win the affection of a girl who has dated several losers, moved to Canada to escape her problems, and is lukewarm about her new relationship. She tries to break things off with Scott no less than three times during the whole ordeal, and yet he continues to fight for her. Through it all, you can’t help but ask, “Why?” None of Scott’s friends ever suggest that Ramona isn’t worth it, and the implicit message is that a history of bad behaviour should be stricken from the record and have no bearing on your present relationship.

Scott Pilgrim reminded me of myself at my dumbest, a time when a cool haircut or a hot outfit could cause me to overlook all manner of psychosis and assign amazing rock songs to wholly unworthy people. I left the theater feeling thankful that this time in my life had passed (though not so long ago), but also feeling sad that so many people would be able to identify with Scott’s struggle (there but for the grace of God go I).

As an action/rom-com hybrid, Scott Pilgrim is an absolute blast. As an allegory for contemporary dating, it’s a total drag.  

 
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Jon Busch

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