Scott Pilgrim – The Awesome Zeitgeist.

Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim against the world. A comic book released in the form of books, 5 released and 6 total planned, by Bryan Lee O’Malley.  Well, there’s a movie now so I’m sure more people will hear of it, and hopefully the creator will also earn more money. It’s not like independent comic writers (comic sold through Oni Press, which houses a lot of independent and manga publications) are known for the piles of money they swim in.

Anyway, it may very well be that Scott Pilgrim is a reflection of the generation that I am a member of, the “Y Generation”, or in the case is, which Scott Pilgrim makes quite convincing, the “Yeah! Generation.” You see, Scott Pilgrim feels to me like an invention that hails in spirit from Seattle, though it’s actually Canada, but let us assume that it is Seattle’s spirit for the moment, the city that had brought us Grunge, the city that had brought has Starbucks. In other words, it’s a hipster city. I have hipster friends who live in Seattle or in its environs and whom I can think of as “Seattleans” in my mind – even though I’ve never actually been to Seattle myself.

So Scott Pilgrim against the world. The plot as there may be is that Scott falls in love with this girl called Ramona (note, it’s been two-three years since I’ve read any Scott Pilgrim). But there’s a problem, Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriends, all seven of them. What follows is a mocking super-hero-esque series of fights where the hipster, broke, slacker Scott Pilgrim is someone we (IIRC)  find out to have never lost a fight, and who is “too cool for school”.

Note: It’s been a couple of years since I’ve read Scott Pilgrim, so on one hand consider it a review of my memory of the comic, and on the other, I use it as a stepping stone to speak of a wider issue. Thank you.

The ex-boyfriends are formed in a manner of super-villains, and they descend against each of Ramona’s prospects, to ensure that there will be no more boyfriends. Each has a style of combat, sometimes gadgets, etc. And the rocker Scott Pilgrim fights them for the fair, and truly hipster-rocker Ramona’s hand, or at least dating rights.

Scott Pilgrim is ridiculous, but it is obviously ridiculous in a purposefully overblown manner. That is, they all go and say “Yeah!” and “I’m awesome”, or that is what you can ken from their lines. You have them become friends with the ex-boyfriends whom they defeat and who accept Scott Pilgrim as being great, but they always tell him the next ex-boyfriend will be tougher.

Scott Pilgrim is cool. Its readers are cool. It feels too cool, and forced, and fake, to me. It’s sort of missing the point, obviously, where it’s not taking itself seriously. But there is this sense of dissonance, because while I like Scott Pilgrim, and for all that I mention these things, I really do like Scott Pilgrim, but I am still troubled by it.

(Movie trailer, doing away with Wallace the roommate and Knives the high-schooler girlfriend. I trust they will be in the film.)

It’s like a bunch of guys who sit at a coffee-shop and go “Awesome, man,” and “awesome, dude!” and “Did you see that? That was so friggin’ awesome!” and that is the vibe Scott Pilgrim gives. But it is probably intentional. I guess I am less bothered by these things in Scott Pilgrim than in the world, and even there, it’s kind of weird, more than something that actually bothers me… Well, it IS a zeitgeist, right? So maybe I am bothered because these things seem so prevalent, though it’s better to be annoyed by these than the more serious people and issues that bother one. This is at least light-hearted bother, if such a thing can be said to exist.
It also has a lot of video game references, of the kind you all know from your various comedies/anime. Well, different things get references, but you know the drill, insider jokes. Nerd-cred ;)

Anyway, another issue with Scott Pilgrim is how little actually happens in each of the manga books. Note, I think I only got as far as the second book, because I did not have money/time/interest in sufficient quantities to buy more (the first 2 books were purchased by my mother, and as often happens when she decides a series is not for her, I pick it up, cheaper!). So my knowledge of more recent events is slimmer, so take it with a grain of salt.

I actually do quite like the life and friends of Scott Pilgrim more than those fights, and luckily those “Too awesome fights” are not too long. Scott Pilgrim is a slacker, he has a high school girl he is sort of not-dating, a roommate he is mooching off of (he sleeps on the floor and has no food to call his own). There is much charm in those moments, and I am glad they make up the majority of the book.

The art is nice, it has some peculiarities, but that is the artist’s style. I wonder how much fame and fortune the movie will bring him.

Score: Scott Pilgrim: Awesome level is more than 9,000! My enjoyment of the first two books is 3.7/5.

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9 comments on “Scott Pilgrim – The Awesome Zeitgeist.

  1. Radiant says:

    I haven’t read Scott Pilgrim, but from the brief glimpses, I did get the feeling of “hipster”, trendy vancouverites sipping on their trendy coffee cups while strolling down Yaletown or Kits with their little toy dogs in tow. Well, maybe not to that sort of extent, but halfway there.

    I know a couple of people that even dress like the main character. The reflection it has on our society is rather… surreal. It’s like Dilbert.

    • Guy says:

      I like Dilbert. And who knows, maybe that’s the goal? It’s certainly one of art’s classic roles, of presenting a mirror in front of us. Of course, these days too often we just think the “mirror” is “more of the same” which we love, and take it at face value.

      It’s an interesting question.

  2. Yi says:

    I haven’t heard of Scott Pilgrim, but it seems like he’s very involved with the hip culture. The trailer looks really interesting, although the comic book-y sound effect thingies seem a bit forced.
    “It feels too cool, and forced, and fake, to me. It’s sort of missing the point, obviously, where it’s not taking itself seriously.”
    Kind of like my feeling for the trailer.

    • Guy says:

      A couple of hours ago you tweeted about Kick-Ass. I think Scott Pilgrim in a way is like Kick-Ass, it’s ALL about hipster-self-reference, sometimes “ironic”. The generation, the media, it’s moving more and more towards being self-referential and insider jokes.
      Like the post on comedies I keep linking to.

      And yeah, the trailer has “Awesome!” but it doesn’t have what I think of as the true charm the series sometimes has, which is mostly in the supporting cast. Then again, I only got as far as the second book.

  3. Linnaeus says:

    While I don’t have first-hand knowledge of Scott Pilgrim, it sounds like the web comic Questionable Content might have the hipsterish vibe you want without the post-modern absurdity.

    • Guy says:

      Actually, I might be more bothered by the hipsterish content than the post-modern quality, which is something all aspects of our hobbies share, but the excitement, the “WE are so kewl!” is what gets me. I’m old before my time, my prime came before my time :D

      I’ll give the comic another look. I know I came across it a time or two in the past.

  4. Linnaeus says:

    I’m nearly the opposite. I can handle hipsterism, at least when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but postmodernism gets old really fast for me. The latter may have more to do with it being dominant right now, so Sturgeon’s Law means that there’s a lot of pomo crap around.

  5. lovelyduckie says:

    OK! I’ve ordered the first one! I’ll try it out since the movie % on rotten tomatoes was decent :)

    • Guy says:

      I still think the rotten tomatoes % came from people who never read the comic and think of themselves as “Cool”. Most people I’ve talked to, from ages 17 to 50 said it got old, and the shtick was tired by the time they were 30 mins in. Would like to hear what you thought.

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