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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

a question for ‘Scott Pilgrim’ fans re Ramona’s self-determination

I just posted a simpler version of this in comments following my review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but I think it’s important enough to promote to its own post.

Here’s a question for everyone who thinks Ramona is free to do as she pleases: What if Scott had failed in his fights with the exes? What happens to Ramona — and her supposed affection for Scott — in that case? Does she say “fuck you” to the exes anyway, and especially to Jason Schwartzmann? Or does she meekly go back to Schwartzmann’s controlling, asshole ex?

Is Ramona free to do as she pleases no matter how Scott fares? How much control does Ramona have over her own life within the context of this metaphor?

I’m not asking what may or may not be in the comic book. I’m asking what fans of this story see Ramona’s choices as being in this scenario. I’m asking fans to step outside the story and look at the metaphor on a slightly larger scale. What does Scott’s having to fight the exes mean for Ramona?

If this is a valid metaphor for modern relationships among young people, there should be something to extrapolate from it.



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  • LuisC

    Wow, you are OBSESSED with Scott Pilgrim!!!!

  • amanohyo

    If Scott loses, and he has no more lives left, then he has three choices in the context of this movie:

    1) Choose Continue and Try Again: In which case the movie is even longer and more repetitive.
    2) Quit and Play Another Game. In which case he chases another girl he fancies.
    3) Quit Playing 1P vs. and Start Playing Co-op – which is what happens in the final fight.

    Some might say 4) quit gaming and start living real life, but games and life are inseparable for these characters, so I doubt that’s possible.

    If I imagine Scott losing for good and think about Ramona though, that’s tough…In my imagination, Ramona, as she is hastily drawn here, would be stuck with Schwartzmann, Can I imagine a Spiderman 2-ish scenario in which she is able to destroy the chip herself and is it consistent with the rest of the movie?

    Hmm… you know what? I don’t even think she likes Scott enough to generate that kind of energy. I see her biding her time with McDoucherton for a while, and then sneaking off through a warp door at a later date to possibly be adorably stalked by some other childish hipster.

    The thing is, she’s so vaguely outlined, it’s tough to nail exactly what she’d do. The only thing I’m sure of is that if she feels any real passion for Scott, I totally did not pick up on it at all. Let’s say she succeeds in destroying the chip on her own, I can’t really see her going for (or staying with) Scott…even after he levels up and gains his self respect…and a job.

  • Knightgee

    Within the context of the film? Well, she would be forever under Gideon’s control. The movie makes it uncomfortably clear that she has no choice in the matter and doesn’t bother to flesh out the character. She only gains a smidgen of rebelliousness when she sees Scott and Knives being hurt (for all the good it does her there).

  • AL

    Movie Ramona doesn’t seem to have many choices if Scott loses. Ideally she would just tell Schwartzmann to get a life, and completely disallow him from continuing his evil exes game. At which point whether she remains with Scott is up to her.
    I think the most frustrating thing is that the scenario being posed is impossible, because as the hero Scott can’t lose in any permanent sense. Which means that not only does movie Ramona not have much of a choice, she can’t even be asked to choose.

  • Drave

    To start, I will say that I loved the movie, but I have not read the books, so this will purely be about my interpretation of the movie.

    To put it as simply as possible, the outcome of each fight determines Scott’s feelings about and behavior toward Ramona. Each fight represents Scott coming to grips with something in Ramona’s past that intimidates him, or an insecurity he himself brought to the table. For example, if Lucas Lee had defeated Scott, it would mean that Scott would be forever comparing himself to the famous ex, and feeling like he comes up short. Most likely, this would translate into resentment which would cause him to treat Ramona poorly. If the vegan had kicked his ass, it might mean that Scott has an addiction he feels will interfere with the relationship, but finds himself unable to give up. If we take it literally (which I don’t necessarily think is required), it means Scott eats meat and Ramona is a vegetarian. If the vegan defeats Scott, he continues to eat meat, but constantly feels like it bothers her, or means he isn’t good enough for her, even if she doesn’t really care.

    So, basically, in the context of the movie’s metaphor, Ramona is free to behave as she pleases, but each lost battle would strengthen a negative aspect of Scott’s personality, making him more likely to drive her away. When she first agrees to go out with him, Scott clearly is to Ramona as Knives is to Scott. He is an easy, non-threatening rebound fling. Then, as he starts coming to terms with the ways in which he is emotionally immature and working to change them (here represented by fights that visually represent the level of difficulty Scott feels in making these realizations and/or changes), it starts to become a real relationship to her, and the stakes are raised.

    The chip, which has been mentioned above, is part of the metaphor. It’s Scott’s fear that Ramona will not be able to get over Gideon and be happy with him. It breaks during Ramona’s fight with Knives, because that fight shows Scott that Ramona does in fact have feelings for him. Again, if Scott had lost that final fight, it would not mean that Ramona would be stuck with Gideon, or that she would not have chosen Scott in the end. It would just mean that Scott was unable to learn whatever lesson he needed to learn, and would be that much more likely to sabotage the relationship.

    The evil exes are NOT Ramona’s baggage; they are Scott’s. The movie is not so much about a relationship as it is about one person struggling to grow enough to be ready to enter a relationship.

    That’s just my take on it. MaryAnn, I respect your opinion, but I don’t agree with it at all. In the interest of full bias disclosure, I am a guy, and I have been a video game geek for pretty much my entire life. (In fact, my dad tells me Zork was my primary motivation to learn to read a couple years ahead of my peers.)

  • Lisa

    She leaves him, quits her job, gets into writing comic books and one gets optioned for a movie. Quentin Tarantino directs Ramona – v – the world, a horribly sexist movie about a woman who has to fight 7 of her beloved man’s exes (well if guys get to have a terrible movie about it, why can’t we?)

  • MaryAnn

    Wow, you are OBSESSED with Scott Pilgrim!!!!

    I’m not the one who has posted 300+ comments in response to my review. :->

    I would be happy to leave this film alone, but it seems like many of my readers do not.

  • FLP_NDROX

    Drave nailed it, and

    The movie is not so much about a relationship as it is about one person struggling to grow enough to be ready to enter a relationship

    is the money quote.

  • Ramona ran to Canada to get away from Gideon once, and at the end of the movie she does finally choose to go off one last time to address her problems. It serves to reason that if Scott were to fail, she would either a) run again or b) face her problems alone.

  • Worth pointing out for the sake of this thread that Ramona says the chip is Gideon’s “way of getting inside my head”. Not his way of “controlling my thoughts”, but just instilling that doubt that invokes her desire to bail. He’s able to activate her insecurities, but he never puppets her, or outright forces her to do or say anything.

  • Dani

    Drave, if your comment had a face I would hug* it.

    *not a typical thing to do to a face, admittedly, but it seems like the opposite of a punch :)

  • First contention: Gideon had wired a chip into Ramona’s head, so Ramona had little chance of escaping Gideon’s reach. Ramona still had free will with regards to her actions, but she had to be under some form of pressure from Gideon…

    The other members of the League of Evil Exes were apparently manipulated by Gideon (“It took me TWO HOURS!”) into doing his dirty work as well, so one could argue THEY had little say about their obsession over Ramona. The Evil Exes obviously couldn’t let go in some way, but Gideon pumped up their wrath and urge for conflict to superhuman levels…

    One thing that’s itching the back of my mind: at first Ramona seems disinterested in Scott, but when she realizes Scott is crushing on her she did move rather quickly into getting the two of them into bed. Was she using Scott as part of her attempt to break free of Gideon’s leash (the chip)? And isn’t that the same way she’d used all her other relationships (she used Patel to fight off the whole football team, for example; she used Roxanne to learn the ninja skills Ramona uses to traverse subspace; the books made things more clear about what Ramona took from each Evil Ex)?

  • amanohyo

    Finally, Drave. That’s the sensible, intelligent positive interpretation I was waiting for. So, the movie is just as self-centered as Scott (we could almost say that it takes place entirely within his mind). The other characters exist solely to aid him on his personal path toward self-respect. They have little to no significance on their own.

    It’s not a movie about the relationship between one man and the woman (and girl) in his life. It’s a movie about one man’s internal struggle with his own insecurities. Doesn’t make me feel any better about the insubstantial nature of the stepping stone characters, and I personally don’t buy the change at the end, but I respect your interpretation and I can understand how and why you like the movie.

  • TZarek

    Dave hit the nail on the head. Fighting the exes is a metaphor for personal growth and self-improvement. If Scott fails in fighting the exes, he fails in his self-improvement and growth, which means he ultimately fails to be the man that Ramona wants and deserves, which means that she leaves him because he’s not good enough for her.

    In retrospect, I think this entire Scott Pilgrim debacle comes from you reading the metaphors (fighting the exes, the chip) too literally.

  • Drave:

    The only thing I would add to your general assessment is that Todd and Scott have a bass battle, meaning the real insecurity there is whether or not Todd is a better bass player than Scott.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m not reading the metaphor too literally. I get that it’s a metaphor. What bothers me is that it’s a *repulsive* metaphor.

  • What bothers me is that it’s a *repulsive* metaphor.

    Why is it repulsive, though? A guy overcomes his neuroses about his girlfriend’s exes. It’s a pretty basic metaphor.

    Is it possible to read too far into something? I can’t deny your decision to look farther into it, but I would say that what you came up with being both unintentional on the part of the filmmakers and not unintentional as a result of their close-mindedness or ground-in biases against anyone — I don’t think Edgar Wright or his screenwriter are actually sexist, and I think your interpretation would be something they would’ve been eager to discuss and address if somehow you could go back in time and present it at the script stage — is a sign that it is worth letting go of, at least as a criticism against this movie. The mentality you are mad about is certainly worth attacking, but I still say you’ve picked a truly innocent target to heap all of these complaints on.

  • I find TZarek’s metaphor repulsive as well, because it posits a main character who is self-centered to the point of narcissism and borderline sociopathy, and presents that as a model everyman of my generation. I’d rather the film be the incoherent result of unconscious sexism manifesting itself in the adaptation process than buy that metaphor.

    I don’t think Edgar Wright or his screenwriter are actually sexist

    Who cares whether they are or not? What does it even mean to say a person “is” sexist — that they have ever engaged in a sexist action ever? That they once had a sexist thought? That they tie women to race tracks while twirling their mustaches?

    The MOVIE is sexist. This sexism may be intentional on the part of one or more of the eighty bajillion people involved in making it, or the result of unconscious biases of one or more of those people, or an emergent property. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the film’s story boils down to “man vs. man for possession of woman” and the woman in question doesn’t have a choice in the matter.

    Which she doesn’t — Ramona says she “can’t help [her]self” around Gideon because “he has a way of getting into [her] head.” It’s explicit: The chip allows Gideon to control Ramona.

    If Gideon wins, he gets to keep Ramona via the chip. And when Scott wins, he’s told by Knives, “Go get her. You’ve been fighting for her all along.” In other words, Ramona isn’t treated as a free-willed person; she’s a prize for the winner of the fight between Gideon and Scott.

    (I know we’re not supposed to talk about the comic in this thread, but I can’t help it. I reread the last volume on the train this morning, and it is SO MUCH BETTER in this respect. MASSIVE SPOILERS: Gideon uses Scott’s Power of Love sword to kill him (with everything THAT implies), 1-up kicks in, Ramona (who had gone home to North Carolina, not back to Gideon) and Scott fight Gideon together, Ramona (not Scott) gets the Power of Love back from Gideon, while Scott gets the Power of Understanding (not Self-Respect), specifically the understanding that Gideon is his own worst tendencies writ large. Scott and Ramona both land the killing blow on Gideon simultaneously.)

  • Wait… I thought she had a (SPOILER) computer chip in her head that made her unable to choose for herself? I don’t know if the outrage applies here.

    I tried to watch the film with your review in mind, and I just don’t see the anti-woman sentiments. Ramona is strong-willed and individualistic, but she’s trapped by an evil mastermind. I mean, I get that it’s “save the princes, mario” and all, but the movie wasn’t really so much about Scott winning Ramona as it was about him winning control over his own inner self. This wasn’t even subtext; they used graphics to illustrate the difference. The hero finally wins when he realizes that Ramona isn’t an object to be won, and just starts to fight the guy who is trying to kill him.

    Perhaps I read too much into that, but it seems to be the overall message. And then, we have an ending where not only does he become willing to give Ramona up (SPOILERS) because she’s not his anyway, but he also just asks if he can come along. And she says sure why not. Isn’t that what most good relationships in your life have been like? Maybe it’s just me?

    If we switched the genders of the main cast, would the complaint be that it’s now a woman defining herself in relation to a man?

    Dunno… doesn’t seem to be too much here to get angry about. It’s an okay movie with some fun action and interesting effects.

  • Lady Tenar

    I don’t think Edgar Wright or his screenwriter are actually sexist

    Why are so many people so reluctant to say that anyone is “actually sexist?” The world is a sexist place therefore most of the people in it are going to be “actually sexist”, including a lot of women and including a lot of people we like. Including a lot of people I like and I am a semi-professional feminist. I have a lot of wonderful friends and I’d say most of them have at least a couple assumptions, ideas, or points-of-view that I would consider to be sexist. That won’t change until the world changes.

    I think the problem here is that we still equate being sexist with being a monster. Or, at any rate, with being a Neanderthal-type men who think that women can’t drive or do anything except get them coffee and have sex. It’s just not the case. Sexism is much more subtle, often seemingly benign, and often coexistent with other points-of-view that we would consider “progressive.” (The number of people I know or I’ve met who are, say, all about legalizing gay marriage and sympathetic to the plight of gays but still think that feminists are just pains in the ass who whine about nothing is staggering and sad.) Therefore, although I’ve never met Edgar Wright, nor even seen the film in question here, I’d say that it’s pretty damn likely that, in some ways at least, he is “actually sexist.” We can criticize that without vilifying him or impugning the value of his other work.

  • If we switched the genders of the main cast, would the complaint be that it’s now a woman defining herself in relation to a man?

    This question is a complete red herring. Men and women are not treated equally by movies or by society; to truly gender-swap the situation, you would have to posit that such a movie exist in a context where men are routinely objectified and the female perspective is regarded as the default, with the male perspective treated as a deviation from the norm.

    In the actual society we live in, if you switched the genders of the main characters, the common complaint (from a different group of people than the ones criticizing the movie here) would be that Scott is a wimp who needs to fight his own battles and Ramona is an emasculating bitch. The term “feminazi” would probably show up in there somewhere.

  • TZarek

    I’m not reading the metaphor too literally. I get that it’s a metaphor. What bothers me is that it’s a *repulsive* metaphor.

    Well, you’re certainly not writing as though you fully understand the metaphor. All of your posts still operate from the presumption that it’s about a guy actually fighting his girlfriend’s exes for control over her, as opposed to a guy battling his own neuroses and insecurities on a journey of growth to become the mature, sensitive man that his girl needs him to be. If you really feel that that is inherently a repulsive metaphor (as opposed to a poorly delivered metaphor or an incomplete metaphor or whatever), I’d like to hear why.

    I find TZarek’s metaphor repulsive as well, because it posits a main character who is self-centered to the point of narcissism and borderline sociopathy, and presents that as a model everyman of my generation. I’d rather the film be the incoherent result of unconscious sexism manifesting itself in the adaptation process than buy that metaphor.

    Uh, ever seen a Woody Allen film? I’ll fully accept that this is a different strokes issue, but I really don’t think a guy with deep insecurities working to overcome them is inherently a borderline sociopath.

  • Lady Tenar

    Froborr, I think I love you.

  • What matters is that the film’s story boils down to “man vs. man for possession of woman” and the woman in question doesn’t have a choice in the matter.

    Which she doesn’t — Ramona says she “can’t help [her]self” around Gideon because “he has a way of getting into [her] head.” It’s explicit: The chip allows Gideon to control Ramona.

    Well, I disagree with your read on all of this. Scott ultimately fights Gideon because Gideon is a bad person, and “explicit”ly states that he’s not doing it to “win” her. And he doesn’t, either: at the end, after it’s all over, he allows her to walk away, even though it hurts him, until Knives encourages him to follow her.

    And as I posted a few comments up, Gideon cannot puppet Ramona or tell her what to do. She can do whatever she wants, and does. It just instills that nagging doubt that nothing is going to work out, something that causes the “flight” side of her “fight or flight” instinct to kick in. If Gideon could just control her, she would never have moved to Canada or been with Scott at all. The point (for him) is to ruin her future relationships with her own neuroses.

    I have a lot of wonderful friends and I’d say most of them have at least a couple assumptions, ideas, or points-of-view that I would consider to be sexist.

    My two cents here is that sexism is a form of close-mindedness, and if you are willing to listen and change, you are not close-minded. Having met and talked with Edgar Wright a few times, I think the concerns that MaryAnn and others have raised with the movie would bother him, and like I said, if we had a time machine, he would probably try to address those in a way that is more satisfying for everyone. There are so many people who would either ignore these kinds of criticisms or even respond to them with further, blatant sexism (as illustrated by quite a few morons in the review comments).

    More importantly, I believe the fact that he missed these complaints is just happenstance. I feel very strongly that there are elements in this movie meant to counter these complaints, that were put there on purpose, but were apparently not done well enough to please everyone. Beyond the “monsters” that actively live into their hate, this also, in my opinion, takes Wright out of the group of people who are passively sexist.

  • In the actual society we live in, if you switched the genders of the main characters, the common complaint (from a different group of people than the ones criticizing the movie here) would be that Scott is a wimp who needs to fight his own battles and Ramona is an emasculating bitch.

    All I can say is that all of my arguments still apply if this is the scenario. I don’t think being a runner emasculates Scott. I think the movie clearly illustrates these issues as coming from the characters.

    I mean, what about the way Scott Pilgrim plays or makes these points suggests it is a metaphor for all relationships, or more importantly, what tells you that Ramona is meant to represent all women? It seems like the movie can only be truly misogynistic or close-minded if somehow Ramona’s personality is meant to be indicative of women as a whole, and yet that can’t be true, because there are several women in the movie who would clearly not react to the scenario in the same way Ramona does.

  • Uh, ever seen a Woody Allen film? I’ll fully accept that this is a different strokes issue, but I really don’t think a guy with deep insecurities working to overcome them is inherently a borderline sociopath.

    It’s the metaphor that’s repulsive, not what it represents. The metaphor they chose to use is a bunch of men fighting to possess a thoroughly objectified woman.

  • Ferox

    It’s the metaphor that’s repulsive, not what it represents. The metaphor they chose to use is a bunch of men fighting to possess a thoroughly objectified woman.

    I see it as a bunch of asshole exes showing up to try to kill Scott, in an attempt to control Ramona’s love life, and Gideon taking it a step further at the end because he’s a total dick.

    I think you have to read Scott participating in that framework into the movie for it to be there.

  • TZarek

    It’s the metaphor that’s repulsive, not what it represents. The metaphor they chose to use is a bunch of men fighting to possess a thoroughly objectified woman.

    Yes, and then the movie repeatedly subverts, poke fun at, and ultimately very vocally reject this literal metaphor. If anything, the whole movie is teasing, if not mocking, the idea of a bunch of men literally fighting over a woman. You’re missing the silly forest for the mock-serious trees.

  • Lady Tenar

    My two cents here is that sexism is a form of close-mindedness, and if you are willing to listen and change, you are not close-minded. Having met and talked with Edgar Wright a few times, I think the concerns that MaryAnn and others have raised with the movie would bother him

    If he Edgar Wright were indeed bothered by the charges of sexism AND he were willing to actually listen to the criticism AND he were willing to do so with the intent of possibly having some assumptions he was unaware of pointed out and examined instead of just the intent of giving a knee-jerk rebuttal of the the feminist bitches’ arguments and going on his merry way, then I would say that he was a stand-up guy. But that STILL wouldn’t make him not sexist. He still had those assumptions to begin with. It would just make him not a jerk. Again, “sexist” and “jerk” are not the same thing.

    I’d say most of my aforementioned would fit this description, which is why they are my friends. They occasionally betray some sexist attitudes. But because they are stand-up guys, they are actually willing to listen to me when I say “Don’t you think that’s kind of sexist?” and actually entertain my point-of-view, even if, in the end, they don’t agree–and sometimes they do agree.

    My comment was in response to all the times I hear various versions of “He can’t be sexist because he treats his wife well” or “He can’t be sexist because he’s liberal” or “He can’t be sexist because look how much respect he has for X woman” or “He can’t be sexist because he’s read Simone de Beauvoir” or just “He can’t be sexist because I like him. He’s a nice guy.” Or a variation: “She can’t be sexist because she’s a woman.” Basically the only people left in the “sexist” category are men who “tie women to race tracks while twirling their mustaches.” And that’s a problem because it means that anybody who criticizes anyone or anything for being sexist will be dismissed by most as an unreasonable feminazi because most people have either wives or girlfriends or mothers or sisters they love, or women they respect a lot, or progressive politics, or positive qualities of some kind, or two X chromosomes, or some combination thereof. And yet sexism still runs deep in our society.

    Basically, I’m just trying to unfreeze the dialogue. We need to be willing to criticize as sexist people we like, or people who create good art, or artists who have depicted some good female characters at some point, or artists who care about the opinions of others and are open-minded enough to re-examine their biases. It’s the only way any progress will ever be made.

    So yeah, if Edgar Wright has actually a made a sexist film, and he would actually be concerned enough about that perception to hear criticism of his work and to entertain it seriously, yes, he is still sexist. AND a stand-up guy. These things can co-exist.

  • AL

    One of the problems I have always seen in and for feminism is that a large portion of the culture, male and female, has an issue with access to it’s terms. Most people do assume that “sexist” equals “irredeemable jerk,” that is why they say things like, “He can’t be a sexist, he’s a good guy.”

    Honestly that is probably the reason that Scott Pilgrim had spawned three threads.(it’s still 3 right)
    All of which have some pretty good length to them. One person says “apple” and someone reads “pterodactyl.”

  • But that STILL wouldn’t make him not sexist. He still had those assumptions to begin with.

    Well, I’m telling you what I think defines sexism here, and I would say where those “assumptions” come from or what causes a person to make them is important. Like I said, I think he attempted to address the sexism at hand even without people’s time-machine criticism, which says to me that he did not rest on assumptions; he took action to counter something before it happened, and any lingering sexism, he truly had not considered or could not see at the time he co-wrote the film.

    But it seems to be that unintentional sexism is a bit more tricky than other forms of discrimination. For instance, aren’t you “allowed” to not be aware that something is considered racist in a certain culture without becoming a racist? You learn, and then you change. Sexism has a bit of a catch where sometimes not considering what the other gender thinks is the sexism, but it seems like plenty of people could honestly fall into that category while still actively trying to promote equality.

    For me, a racist, or a sexist, or someone homophobic, or whatever, is someone who clings to those thoughts and opinions. Even if it’s important not to think of all sexists as vile people, I think it’s equally important to separate the inconsiderate from genuinely innocent people who are making an effort.

    In any case, though, I do think your point is valid, I’m just trying to illustrate how my definition is different.

  • bitchen frizzy

    We need someone with an entirely objective viewpoint to provide a clear definition of sexist, to aid in the difficult task of distinguishing the sexist people from the normal people.

  • MaryAnn

    Why is it repulsive, though? A guy overcomes his neuroses about his girlfriend’s exes. It’s a pretty basic metaphor.

    That’s not the metaphor. That’s what the metaphor is a metaphor *for.*

    The metaphor is the series of videogame battles between (mostly) men for a woman’s affections.

    All of your posts still operate from the presumption that it’s about a guy actually fighting his girlfriend’s exes for control over her

    But that *is* what is actually happening in the movie! Within the story space of the film, there’s nothing metaphoric about that. Scott is actually doing these things. He is really battling the exes. It’s not even as if Scott is dreaming these things. We are meant to take them as real. Not “real” real, as in something that would actually take place in the real world, but real as in something we are intended to suspend disbelief about and accept as real in Scott’s universe.

    as opposed to a guy battling his own neuroses and insecurities on a journey of growth to become the mature, sensitive man that his girl needs him to be.

    And that’s what what is happening in the movie is a metaphor for, outside the story space of the film.

    Of course I know that in real life people often have hangups and neuroses that they have to overcome in order to grow as a person. I don’t object to that — it’s reality, it’s part of becoming an adult. What I find repulsive is the way that reality is represented in this film: as the series of videogame battles between men over a woman.

    I keep trying to come up with a comparable metaphor that reduces men to machines (as happens to Ramona via the chip) or prizes, but there really isn’t a comparable one because of the differences in how men and women are treated by the culture at large and by pop culture in particular. There simply is no similar cliché that removes a man’s autonomy. Even in movies about women chasing men as prizes — like in romantic comedies — the men are far more fully fleshed out characters. The notion of an almost anonymous, blank-slate man who serves as a reward for a female protagonist simply does not exist as a movie trope.

  • Froborr (Wed Aug 18 10, 1:26PM):

    Men and women are not treated equally by movies or by society; to truly gender-swap the situation, you would have to posit that such a movie exist in a context where men are routinely objectified and the female perspective is regarded as the default, with the male perspective treated as a deviation from the norm.

    I disagree. Look at Run, Lola, Run for an example of what I’m talking about. There is definitely that stereotype; it exists and lots of popular entertainment projects exploit it, but I am not convinced that this is what’s happening with Scott Pilgrim.

    I just watched Neil Marshall’s excellent Centurion last night, for another example. (MILD SPOILERS) This film features some burly guys trying to rescue another burly guy. The prisoner is not emasculated by his captivity, he is merely outmatched and in need of rescue. He remains one of the manliest characters in the picture.

    Simply being a captive does not make a woman weak, and being defended does not make her the victim of sexism (however you want to define it). This certainly happens all the time, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t think it is happening in Scott Pilgrim. Romona is perfectly able to defend herself when not being mind controlled. Her character clearly does not need a man; she’s smarter, better-looking, stronger, and more capable than Scott. This doesn’t seem like sexism to me. Semantics? Maybe so… it doesn’t seem offensive, either way.

    I get that she’s the ‘prize’ for a good portion of the movie, but the action on screen overtly labels this concept as something to be defeated, not celebrated. Scott learns not only how wrong he was, but he also learns how to be right.

    Which is, I think, pretty cool.

  • MaryAnn

    Romona is perfectly able to defend herself when not being mind controlled.

    Even if this is true, how is it a defense of the film? Why does the story need to mind-control a character? Why does Ramona have to be artificially weakened, her self-determination taken away?

    It sounds like you’re saying that if Ramona were not artificially hampered in this way, she wouldn’t need Scott at all. Would Ramona have anything at all to do with Scott if she weren’t mind-controlled?

    she’s smarter, better-looking, stronger, and more capable than Scott.

    So what the hell is she doing with Scott?

    Do you see how this could be considered offensive to some? That a smart, strong, capable woman must be *hampered* in order for some guy whom everyone keeps insisting is not worthy of Ramona until the end of the film to have a shot with her?

  • bitchen frizzy

    Of course I know that in real life people often have hangups and neuroses that they have to overcome in order to grow as a person. I don’t object to that — it’s reality, it’s part of becoming an adult. What I find repulsive is the way that reality is represented in this film: as the series of videogame battles between men over a woman.

    But to neurotic young men pining for a woman they hope to win, she’s often a blank slate – they love her from a distance and barely know her while they fantasize about somehow winning her heart. That’s sexist of them perhaps, but is it sexist of a movie to have such a character? Must a movie told from the sad sack’s POV redeem itself by showing her POV in order not to be regarded as “sexist”?

    Just asking to understand your point better, btw. Not intended as argumentative.

  • There simply is no similar cliché that removes a man’s autonomy.

    Nobody has responded to my explanation of the chip, which I still think is valid. She is not being controlled in any way; her autonomy is not compromised. The chip just instills doubt, which brings up her neuroses that were there before (and are still there after) Gideon’s around. The villain preys on her insecurity. Is that not what most villains do?

    So what the hell is she doing with Scott?

    Do you see how this could be considered offensive to some? That a smart, strong, capable woman must be *hampered* in order for some guy whom everyone keeps insisting is not worthy of Ramona until the end of the film to have a shot with her?

    She chooses Scott because he’s easy, for the same basic reason Scott initially chooses Knives. Maybe you are referring to something else, but the chip does not play any part in her decision to choose Scott.

    As for the smart, strong and capable part, we’re talking shades, not extremes. The point is that she’s not a complete damsel in distress. She doesn’t ask Scott to solve her problems or spend all of her time calling out for anyone to help her, and she takes limited amounts of action, even if she second-guesses herself. In fact, her return to Gideon can be viewed, based on the fight that she and Scott have in the bar, as an attempt to get Scott out of fighting the last three exes rather than a regressive run back to Gideon. In any case, she can be all three of those things and still have moments of weakness.

  • The movie doesn’t necessarily need to show Ramona’s POV to not be sexist. It just needs to have Ramona take a more active role: She should be *horrified* that her evil exes are still trying to control her, and taking part in fighting them! At the very least, give Ramona an arc: She starts out expecting to be saved (because underneath, she has much the same avoid-all-problems slacker tendencies as Scott), and then at the end she helps take down Gideon as an equal participant.

    Instead the only Evil Ex fight Ramona takes active part in is Roxy. So… women can fight each other, but only men can fight men? Yeah, nothing sexist there.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Yeah, nothing sexist there.

    Yeah, but who’s sexist, the movie or Scott? If it’s his metaphor… or is it?

  • Nobody has responded to my explanation of the chip, which I still think is valid.

    I did respond, and I showed that your explanation is not valid. Once again: Ramona says that she can’t help herself around Gideon because he has a way of getting into her head, and then she reveals the chip. That directly contradicts your explanation.

    It seems highly unlikely she had the chip from the beginning of the movie, both since it would have made it difficult to escape from Gideon, and because you would think Scott would feel it while they made out. I think Gideon installed it on Ramona somewhere between Ramona and Scott’s fight at the Clash at Demonhead party and their conversation after the Katayanagi twins battle.

  • Yeah, but who’s sexist, the movie or Scott? If it’s his metaphor… or is it?

    The movie holds Scott’s sexist behavior up as entertainment and heroism. So, both.

  • Ramona says that she can’t help herself around Gideon because he has a way of getting into her head, and then she reveals the chip. That directly contradicts your explanation.

    How? He has “a way of getting into [her] head”. That doesn’t mean he puppets her or tells her what to do, it just instills doubt, and doubt triggers her “flight” reflex. We can all agree that relationship metaphors abound, and I would say this is a perfectly solid one.

    I admit that I have not seen this for myself, but reportedly, you can see her rubbing her neck in a few scenes as an indication that it is there the whole movie.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Well, I’ve been seeing this argument a lot, lately; and it’s a disturbing trend in film criticism. We’re looking at the genesis of a whole new Hayes code, which defines a movie as ___ist and offensive, because it has characters and content which are ___ist and offensive.

    Like the Hayes code, the movie makers are guilty by association with the characters in their movies. Or am I misunderstanding the commenters presumtively labeling Wright as sexist because he has a sexist character?

    In such an enviroment, if this attitude takes hold, we’ll have no more movies like Schindler’s List, because it will be regarded as violently antisemitic becaue it contains violent antisemitism – and never mind the stance of the movie or its makers. I wish I were exaggerating, but I’ve read just such criticism of Schindler’s List. At one time, this could be dismissed as loony, but now it’s a growing trend.

    The argument I’m reading here is that it makes no difference what the intent of the movie maker is, who’s POV the story is told from, or what the ultimate resolution of the character arc might be, he’s sexist so the movie is sexist. Or what am I missing?

  • TZarek

    The movie doesn’t necessarily need to show Ramona’s POV to not be sexist. It just needs to have Ramona take a more active role: She should be *horrified* that her evil exes are still trying to control her, and taking part in fighting them! At the very least, give Ramona an arc: She starts out expecting to be saved (because underneath, she has much the same avoid-all-problems slacker tendencies as Scott), and then at the end she helps take down Gideon as an equal participant.

    Why? A movie can be about a passive, imperfect, even flawed female character without being sexist; it’s just a movie about a passive, imperfect, and flawed female character. It sounds like you’re essentially arguing that the movie is sexist unless Ramona is a paragon of strength and grrrl-power. No one is holding up Ramona up as some model of all womanhood; in fact, characters in the film specifically react to how damaged she is, and she stays damaged even until the final frame of the movie.

    Likewise, a movie can offer a male point-of-view on romance without being sexist, and a movie can follow a male character without fleshing out the female characters without being sexist (just as a movie can follow solely its female characters and not be sexist). These are arguably FLAWS of the movie, and “Scott Pilgrim is a bad movie because it has flat undeveloped characters” is a totally valid criticism. But that’s not the same as it being sexist.

  • bitchen frizzy

    A movie can be about a passive, imperfect, even flawed female character without being sexist; it’s just a movie about a passive, imperfect, and flawed female character. It sounds like you’re essentially arguing that the movie is sexist unless Ramona is a paragon of strength and grrrl-power.

    That’s another irritating trend. If a female character is ever weak, or in a position to receive help from a male character, or ever once unable to do everything herself, then the movie is “sexist”.

    Female characters now have to be at least as strong as all men in the movie and fully self-reliant, or the movie is unforgivably flawed and crypo-sexist.

    How sexist is that? Female characters must be pedestal-mounted paragons of feminist virtue? That’s fucking Victorian.

  • MaryAnn

    But to neurotic young men pining for a woman they hope to win, she’s often a blank slate – they love her from a distance and barely know her while they fantasize about somehow winning her heart. That’s sexist of them perhaps, but is it sexist of a movie to have such a character?

    Not necessarily. But the perspective of the movie — as distinct from Scott’s perspective, which is NOT the same thing — it also treats Ramona as a blank slate. Ramona doesn’t have to be a blank slate from the movie’s perspective for her to be one from Scott’s perspective… but she is anyway.

    Must a movie told from the sad sack’s POV redeem itself by showing her POV in order not to be regarded as “sexist”?

    It doesn’t necessarily need to show her POV, but it does need to show her as something beyond what Scott sees her as in order to evade these criticisms, yes.

    The villain preys on her insecurity. Is that not what most villains do?

    Again, it’s the metaphor, the way in which he does it, that offends.

    Like the Hayes code, the movie makers are guilty by association with the characters in their movies. Or am I misunderstanding the commenters presumtively labeling Wright as sexist because he has a sexist character?

    No no no. *Scott Pilgrim* is sexist — from my perspective, in my opinion, your mileage may vary — not because it features a sexist protagonist but because the perspective of the film itself is sexist. Stories *about* sexism do not have to themselves *be* sexist. This one is.

    It sounds like you’re essentially arguing that the movie is sexist unless Ramona is a paragon of strength and grrrl-power.

    No, precisely the opposite. Ramona just needs to be human, and depicted as a person. But she isn’t here. She’s a cipher.

    This is what so many seem to misunderstand about feminism. It’s NOT about insisting that women are perfect. It’s about insisting that women are *people.*

  • MaryAnn

    Female characters must be pedestal-mounted paragons of feminist virtue?

    No, we’re saying exactly the opposite.

  • TZarek

    No, precisely the opposite. Ramona just needs to be human, and depicted as a person. But she isn’t here. She’s a cipher.

    This is what so many seem to misunderstand about feminism. It’s NOT about insisting that women are perfect. It’s about insisting that women are *people.*

    But why is ‘being a human’ synonymous with being assertive, with defying the system, with strongly asserting her agency and independence? Can’t someone be human while being passive and weak? Is the implication that a passive, flawed, weak woman who allows men to fight over her is subhuman?

  • MaryAnn

    Can’t someone be human while being passive and weak?

    Sure. But she still needs to be a fully developed character. Ramona isn’t.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Not necessarily. But the perspective of the movie — as distinct from Scott’s perspective, which is NOT the same thing —

    OK. Does seem to me that at least some of this lengthy argument might be over the shades of gray on this point: to what extent the movie should be understood as “Scott’s metaphor” or whatever, which is why I asked.

  • TZarek

    No one in the movie is a fully developed character. That makes it, depending on your taste, a bad movie. But underdevelopment isn’t synonymous with sexism, especially when it’s as endemic as it is in Scott Pilgrim, a film that is overwhelmingly about imagery, style, and metaphor.

  • @TZarek and bitchen frizzy: The Hayes Code BANNED movies from showing certain things. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have no interest in banning anything. I *liked* the Scott Pilgrim movie, but I nonetheless think it has deep flaws. I see it as analogous to Tolkien’s classism or Lovecraft’s racism (though nowhere near as extreme as the latter). I can note that ___ism, recognize it as horrible, and then accept that the work is a product of its time and move on.

    Anyway, nobody here is demanding that movies have no characters that are sexist. Mad Men is a great example of a show in which every single character is sexist, but the show itself by and large is not.

    Why? A movie can be about a passive, imperfect, even flawed female character without being sexist; it’s just a movie about a passive, imperfect, and flawed female character.

    Absolutely true. However, since they don’t explore WHY her character is passive, and the movie exists within a context (American movies, circa 2010) in which women are commonly objectified, we must regard the movie as part of that trend.

    It sounds like you’re essentially arguing that the movie is sexist unless Ramona is a paragon of strength and grrrl-power. No one is holding up Ramona up as some model of all womanhood;

    Scott is held up as an everyman. It stands to reason that Ramona is therefore meant to be an everywoman — or would be, if the film had any interest in women.

    characters in the film specifically react to how damaged she is,

    When? I’ve seen the movie twice, and I don’t remember anyone ever commenting on this. The closest thing I recall is Stacey recognizing how weird the League of Evil Exes thing is, but that’s not really part of Ramona’s damaged-ness.

    and she stays damaged even until the final frame of the movie.

    So, you’re holding up the fact that she has zero character arc as a DEFENSE against the accusation of sexism?

    These are arguably FLAWS of the movie, and “Scott Pilgrim is a bad movie because it has flat undeveloped characters” is a totally valid criticism. But that’s not the same as it being sexist.

    If Scott Pilgrim were only or primarily an action movie, I would agree with you. But it’s a movie about relationships, and the primary relationship in the film is between a man and a woman. You need to characterize BOTH those people, and the one they forgot to characterize just so happens to be female?

    Female characters now have to be at least as strong as all men in the movie and fully self-reliant, or the movie is unforgivably flawed and crypo-sexist.

    How sexist is that? Female characters must be pedestal-mounted paragons of feminist virtue? That’s fucking Victorian.

    Need some more straw for that man you’re building over there?

  • TZarek

    Within the context of the film’s level of development, Ramona is as developed as any of the principals: like Scott, she is an overly passive, weak person who settles for comfort and safety and runs from complication. This stands, incidentally, to the much stronger male and female figures (Kim, Wallace, even Knives) who are much more comfortable and confident about their desires and pursuits. But Ramona’s weaknesses do not make the movie sexist, especially when the film goes of its way to acknowledge that these are weaknesses in her character.

  • bitchen frizzy

    No, we’re saying exactly the opposite.

    I’m not sure who “we” are in that sentence. ;)

    Methinks there’s more than two sides in this debate.

  • TZarek

    If Scott Pilgrim were only or primarily an action movie, I would agree with you. But it’s a movie about relationships, and the primary relationship in the film is between a man and a woman. You need to characterize BOTH those people, and the one they forgot to characterize just so happens to be female?

    Why do you need to do that? Why can’t I make a movie that explores exclusively the male perspective in relationships, or exclusively the female perspective? What you’re proposing seems incredibly artistically narrow.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Need some more straw for that man you’re building over there?

    The movie doesn’t necessarily need to show Ramona’s POV to not be sexist. It just needs to have Ramona take a more active role…

    IOW, “Ramona is passive and doesn’t kick men’s asses, therefore the movie is sexist.”

    Straw man?

  • @TZarek: Because a relationship between a man and a cipher, or a woman and a cipher, isn’t a relationship. It’s masturbation. To make a movie about a relationship, you have to have a relationship, and that requires two characters.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Because a relationship between a man and a cipher, or a woman and a cipher, isn’t a relationship. It’s masturbation.

    Precisely the situation, literally, of neurotic young men pining for women they love from a distance.

  • If Scott Pilgrim were only or primarily an action movie, I would agree with you. But it’s a movie about relationships, and the primary relationship in the film is between a man and a woman.

    Says who? I asked before: can a movie not use a relationship as the motivation for the plot, yet not be about it? I think so, and I think Scott Pilgrim is an example.

    I maintain that there is not really a relationship in the movie. Both Scott and Ramona try to have one, and have their eyes opened the myriad of reasons both of them aren’t ready. By the end of the film, the playing field is level, and they’re ready to try again, this time for real, with their pasts successfully behind them.

  • TZarek

    @TZarek: Because a relationship between a man and a cipher, or a woman and a cipher, isn’t a relationship. It’s masturbation. To make a movie about a relationship, you have to have a relationship, and that requires two characters.

    And this is a perfectly valid aesthetic criticism. But once again, it’s not a demonstration of sexism.

  • MaryAnn

    Says who? I asked before: can a movie not use a relationship as the motivation for the plot, yet not be about it? I think so, and I think Scott Pilgrim is an example.

    This is even sadder than anything I’d thought this movie was saying. This is severing human interaction from the human part of it. What is a relationship if not a connection to another person? How do you remove the other person from the equation?

  • bitchen frizzy

    How do you remove the other person from the equation?

    By being young and neurotic. Many people have had youthful relationships and realized later that they hardly even knew the other person. It’s a common human experience.

    It could be that the screenwriter(s) thought it necessary that Ramona be a cipher to Scott as integral to his arc. Then her being a cipher is perhaps muddled perspective, not sexism.

  • This is even sadder than anything I’d thought this movie was saying. This is severing human interaction from the human part of it. What is a relationship if not a connection to another person? How do you remove the other person from the equation?

    Well, they have a connection, it’s just not a full-fledged, healthy romantic relationship, until maybe one begins at the ending.

    I’m just saying the movie can use a supposed romance as plot without the point of the movie being the romance. The point is the journey Scott is making, which is why it’s called Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and not Scott and Ramona or something like that.

  • MaryAnn

    By being young and neurotic. Many people have had youthful relationships and realized later that they hardly even knew the other person. It’s a common human experience.

    Agreed that it’s a common human experience. But a movie that intended to counter that has to actually, you know, *counter* that. This movie does not.

    The point is the journey Scott is making, which is why it’s called Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and not Scott and Ramona or something like that.

    Well, then shouldn’t the movie be called *Scott Pilgrim vs. Himself*? :->

  • Lady Tenar

    any lingering sexism, he truly had not considered or could not see at the time he co-wrote the film.

    Okay, but how does that prove that he is not sexist? Most people’s sexism is “not considered.” I’m not necessarily doubting his good intentions I’m just saying that he, like most people, probably has some blind spots and your statement only seems to confirm that.

    For me, a racist, or a sexist, or someone homophobic, or whatever, is someone who clings to those thoughts and opinions. Even if it’s important not to think of all sexists as vile people, I think it’s equally important to separate the inconsiderate from genuinely innocent people who are making an effort.

    I respect that your definition of sexism is different but I still just think that your definition falls too much into the trap of sexist=jerk. There are plenty of people who “make an effort”, who genuinely value equality and egalitarianism in principle but are blind to some of their own biases. I don’t see how somebody isn’t sexist, just because they have the capacity to change. It just means they have the potential to not be sexist.

    We need someone with an entirely objective viewpoint to provide a clear definition of sexist, to aid in the difficult task of distinguishing the sexist people from the normal people.

    See, statements like this perfectly illustrate the problem I’m talking about. Most sexist people are normal people. The tendency to think that all sexist people are deviants of some kind, and that if a person is a deviant, they can’t be sexist, instead of acknowledging that sexism is the norm in our society right now shuts down a lot of meaningful discourse on the subject.

    Also, who has on objective viewpoint? There’s no such thing. We all live in human society and gender issues and identity are factors in all of our lives. Objectivity is impossible in this case. We can only make our arguments and back them up as best we can.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Agreed that it’s a common human experience. But a movie that intended to counter that has to actually, you know, *counter* that. This movie does not.

    Valid critique of the plot resolution and character arc, though I think the movie is probably supposed to end with Scott only reaching the end of the beginning of his own capacity to truly relate. Or something.

    As for the title, neurotic people wrestling their own demons often project that struggle as a fight against the world, sometimes through fantasy. Common coping mechanism. Taxi Driver may have shown this better, albeit with a protagonist a just bit more messed up than Scott.

  • Lady Tenar

    Whoops, did some of the italics wrong in that last comment…

  • Lady Tenar

    We’re looking at the genesis of a whole new Hayes code, which defines a movie as ___ist and offensive, because it has characters and content which are ___ist and offensive.

    *sigh* I feel like a broken record whenever I say this but criticism is not censorship. They Hayes Code was censorship, it actually controlled the content of films. Neither Mary Ann, nor anyone else on this thread, is trying to do this, nor do we have the power. It’s simply discourse. Nothing could be more democratic.

    Also, the criticism is not that the characters are sexist but that the entire film is–because it’s basic concept is based on sexist assumptions.

    In such an enviroment, if this attitude takes hold, we’ll have no more movies like Schindler’s List, because it will be regarded as violently antisemitic becaue it contains violent antisemitism – and never mind the stance of the movie or its makers.

    Are you serious? You don’t see the difference between objecting to a film it’s entire premise is predicated on sexist tropes that go unexamined within the film and objecting to a film about a man rescuing people from the Holocaust simply because it portrays anti-semitism? The difference is that the Schindler’s List obviously obviously rebukes (to say the least) it’s anti-semitic characters, whereas Scott Pilgrim–if the criticisms are correct–doesn’t even seem to realize that it’s portraying sexism to begin with.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Also, who has on objective viewpoint? There’s no such thing.

    That was my point.

    Okay, but how does that prove that he is not sexist?

    Why is it important that he not be sexist? And from who’s POV? You’re sexist, to some extent. For all I know, you’re more sexist than he is.

  • bitchen frizzy

    They Hayes Code was censorship, it actually controlled the content of films. Neither Mary Ann, nor anyone else on this thread, is trying to do this, nor do we have the power. It’s simply discourse. Nothing could be more democratic.

    I was referring more to the ideas behind the Hayes Code than to the actual censorship. Sorry I didn’t make that clearer.

    You don’t see the difference between objecting to a film it’s entire premise is predicated on sexist tropes that go unexamined within the film and objecting to a film about a man rescuing people from the Holocaust simply because it portrays anti-semitism?

    I don’t see enough of a difference. You see, Schindler’s List wouldn’t be much of a film if it didn’t portray anti-Semitism. It’s very existence and commercial success rely on that trope. I could chose to be offended by that, if the very portrayal of anti-Semitism were offensive to me. Does my argument sound absurd? Well, it’s not my argument, unfortunately.

  • bitchen frizzy

    (I don’t know why I keep confusing blockquote with italics.)

  • MaryAnn

    I could chose to be offended by that, if the very portrayal of anti-Semitism were offensive to me.

    You could choose to be offended by that, if you like.

    However, no one is saying anything comparable about *Scott Pilgrim.*

  • Matthew Morse

    One thing I’ve been struggling with for the past several days is the fact that the Scott Pilgrim movie characters are not the same as the Scott Pilgrim comic characters. I think the question of what the comic Ramona would do in the absence of Scott is easy, but it’s harder for the movie Ramona.

    I would consider it a failing of the movie if questions about it are unanswerable without referring to the comic, and in any event the comic is sufficiently different than the movie that the comic’s answers are not always correct for the movie anyway.

    My take on the movie is that while Ramona will return to Gideon when he calls, she also won’t stay with him. She left him once, and she’ll leave him again. The thing I can’t answer is what happens if he comes for her again. There’s nothing in the movie to suggest that she could ever leave him permanently, or alternatively, that she could happily stay with him.

    Again, the comic is easy: she’s left him and isn’t going back. He still has indirect control over her life, but she’ll get over it sooner or later on her own.

  • MaryAnn:

    Me:

    …she’s smarter, better-looking, stronger, and more capable than Scott.

    So what the hell is she doing with Scott?

    Shooot, I could say the same thing about my wife. I guess I’m just lucky. Who knows why women choose the men they do?

    In the context of the film (and its bizarre rules) she finds him attractive in a new and interesting way. That seems like it should be enough for a fledgling romance, even one as unusual as this.

  • bitchen frizzy

    You could choose to be offended by that, if you like.

    However, no one is saying anything comparable about *Scott Pilgrim.*

    Um, what?

    I thought one of the arguments here was driven by people finding all kinds of sexist stuff in “Pilgrim” that other viewers just aren’t seeing, or just aren’t getting nearly as bent about.

  • MaryAnn

    No, the argument is that the movie itself is sexist, but not because Scott the character is sexist. You may disagree that the movie is sexist, but you’re misunderstanding my argument (and apparently that of others here, too) if you think I’m saying that a movie with a sexist character automatically means the movie is sexist, too.

    Your comment about *Schindler’s List* was about how some people feel that because it depicts anti-Semitism the movie itself must be anti-Semitic. But no one here is saying anything like that about *Scott Pilgrim.* No one is saying, “*Scott Pilgrim* depicts sexism, therefore and for no other reason it is sexist.”

    As someone else noted above, *Mad Men* is crammed with sexist characters, but the show itself is not sexist.

  • bitchen frizzy

    How can you find the movie sexist if there’s nothing sexist in the movie? I didn’t say it had to be the character’s specifically. I said “sexist stuff”. That could be characters, or premise, or dialogue, or tropes, or whatever. You identify something in the movie as sexist to label the movie as sexist, and from there (not you, but others) label the makers of the movie as sexist by extension.

    The critics of “Schindler’s List” argued that its commercial and critical success made it anti-Semitic because it used the Holocaust as a vehicle for success.

    And here, we have the argument that a movie with sexist tropes is sexist, and therefore so are the people that made the movie. It’s a bad thing to use sexist material or ideas to make a movie, and it’s also a bad movie.

  • MaryAnn

    How can you find the movie sexist if there’s nothing sexist in the movie?

    But there is. As I have explained over and over and over again.

    You are free to disagree with me, of course, about whether what I see as sexist about the movie is what you see as sexist (or not). But you are not free to mischaracterize my argument. I have not and will never say that a movie *about* a sexist character *must* automatically itself be sexist.

  • bitchen frizzy

    I have not and will never say that a movie *about* a sexist character *must* automatically itself be sexist.

    I never said you did. I asked if you did, and you said no. Fine. But that does leave your reasoning that sexist tropes equals sexist movie (and sexist movie maker) equals bad movie, and it’s that to which I am drawing parallels.

  • How can you find the movie sexist if there’s nothing sexist in the movie?

    Well, the definition of what’s “in” a movie is debatable, but, say a movie about white people shoots in NYC and purposefully avoids showing Harlem. None of the characters says or does anything racist, but to anyone who lives in the area, it would be pretty apparent that the filmmakers are cutting around that area.

    Sexism, like the charges MaryAnn is leveling at Scott Pilgrim, are an even better example. Again, your definition of “in” the movie may be hard to pin down here, but every action movie with a shrieky woman who is entirely unable to do manly things is basically sexist, even if the characters and story are not. You could argue that the writing of the character is “in” the movie and is sexist, or that by playing into the stereotype, the character is sexist, but it’s not like the characters have to actively be sexists for the movie to be sexist.

  • MaryAnn

    But that does leave your reasoning that sexist tropes equals sexist movie (and sexist movie maker) equals bad movie

    I didn’t say “sexist filmmaker,” actually. And I don’t think it matters what Edgar Wright says he is or thinks he is. He made a sexist film. Yes, sexist tropes used in a way that reinforces sexism — as opposed to countering it or satirizes it or criticising it — is sexist.

    If that *doesn’t* make a film sexist, then what the hell does?

  • Yes, sexist tropes used in a way that reinforces sexism — as opposed to countering it or satirizes it or criticising it — is sexist.

    So very this.

    This is also why the “What if the genders were swapped?” question is irrelevant. The bar to consider something sexist is properly set a lot higher when it’s contradicting society’s sexist attitudes than when it’s reinforcing them.

  • bitchen frizzy

    I didn’t say “sexist filmmaker,” actually.

    Not you, but somebody else. And that particularly bothered me.

    Yes, sexist tropes used in a way that reinforces sexism — as opposed to countering it or satirizes it or criticising it — is sexist.

    But others have said that it doesn’t do that at all. So are they blind to it, or are you tilting at windmills?

    Well, the definition of what’s “in” a movie is debatable, but, say a movie about white people shoots in NYC and purposefully avoids showing Harlem.

    Lots of movies about white people are shot in NYC, and don’t show Harlem. I’ve seen dozens of them. Are they all racist? How do I know if they’re purposely avoiding Harlem? NYC is a very big place. Is it necessary for a movie shot in NYC to show Harlem in order to not be racist? Where the hell are we at if it becomes obligatory for a movie in NYC to show a shot of Harlem to avoid the charge of racism?

    By extension, then, if a movie uses a sexist trope it’s sexist unless something in the movie serves as an express disclaimer of sexism?

    In Hayes Code thinking, no immoral (as defined by the code) character in the movie could have a happy ending. The movie itself was condemned as immoral if any immoral character did not come to a bad end or suffer consequences.

    So now I’m hearing an argument that movies shot in NY are racist unless they go out of their way to show Harlem. Now, movies with sexist elements are sexist unless there’s an explicit critique or satirization of those sexist elements to serve as counterweight.

  • Yes, sexist tropes used in a way that reinforces sexism — as opposed to countering it or satirizes it or criticising it — is sexist.

    This is exactly why I don’t agree, because I think the movie is countering, satirizing, and criticizing it. I think that’s the entire point of the movie, and I can’t grasp how people don’t see that in it. I mean, if you don’t, to me it seems like the end must read as completely abstract, because it’s the motivation behind pretty much every scene in the Chaos Theater.

    That’s why it frustrates me so much that people in here think it’s sexist. It’s pretty much the only movie I’ve seen in a long time that not only addressed but really landed some solid, enthusiastic blows in favor of not being a chauvinist idiot. Maybe the points could have been more refined, and it’s not without flaws, which I have mentioned before, but gah. Going back to someone else’s Schindler’s List mention, I feel as if I watched it and came into a thread where people were vilifying him for playing any part in anything Anti-Semitic and decrying him as on par with Hitler, and ignoring anything he ever did to change.

  • Lots of movies about white people are shot in NYC, and don’t show Harlem. I’ve seen dozens of them. Are they all racist? How do I know if they’re purposely avoiding Harlem? NYC is a very big place. Is it necessary for a movie shot in NYC to show Harlem in order to not be racist? Where the hell are we at if it becomes obligatory for a movie in NYC to show a shot of Harlem to avoid the charge of racism?

    Well, I’ve actually never been to NYC, so this was just an example. A better example (although we’re getting close to the point where the blatancy is overriding the idea I was trying to get across) would be a film that shoots in the neighborhoods surrounding Harlem, but uses digital matte paintings to place another neighborhood there. If you don’t live in NYC, you’d probably never notice, but anyone who does live in the area or even in Harlem itself would be able to tell.

  • bitchen frizzy

    A better example (although we’re getting close to the point where the blatancy is overriding the idea I was trying to get across) would be a film that shoots in the neighborhoods surrounding Harlem, but uses digital matte paintings to place another neighborhood there.

    Well, that would be a deliberate whitewash, in more than one sense of the term.

    Now, wrt to “Pilgrim”, some are arguing that the underdevelopment of Ramona is an example of this; i.e., she’s downplayed because the movie is sexist in wanting to focus on Scott’s character at the expense of developing her character. Do you agree? Was Ramona’s character (=Harlem) deliberately avoided or downplayed due to sexism, or just incidentally avoided for whatever reasons including bad screenwriting?

  • I think it’s just the amount of material they had to distill from 6 200 page books into one movie, and I don’t think Ramona’s arc was reduced at a rate inconsistent with the reduction of every character from the book.

    As I’ve mentioned, I just wanted her to take more of a part in the fight at the end. There should have been a reshoot once they learned the movie was not ending with Scott and Knives back together to get Ramona more involved, but I imagine the set had already been torn down.

  • There should have been a reshoot once they learned the movie was not ending with Scott and Knives back together to get Ramona more involved, but I imagine the set had already been torn down.

    Does that mean that Wright shot the movie without Bryan Lee O’Malley telling him how Book 6 was going to end?

  • …Unless the ending of Book 6 (which I haven’t read yet) is different from the film’s…

  • Does that mean that Wright shot the movie without Bryan Lee O’Malley telling him how Book 6 was going to end?

    He gave them the basics. But yes, the script was written when only 3 of the 6 books existed. The movie is pretty identical through the Todd Ingram fight, then diverges in fairly significant ways.

    …Unless the ending of Book 6 (which I haven’t read yet) is different from the film’s…

    It is. The very broad strokes of what happens are the same, but it’s pretty different otherwise.

  • Froborr

    Was Ramona’s character (=Harlem) deliberately avoided or downplayed due to sexism, or just incidentally avoided for whatever reasons including bad screenwriting?

    Again, you’re insisting that sexism has something to do with intent. It doesn’t. Sexism is not an attitude, it’s an act.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Sexism is not an attitude, it’s an act.

    Reductionist and legalistic nonsense. Actions must be interpreted in context, and that includes intent. You’d rid art criticism of its essence and purpose with your approach. But never mind that argument for the moment.

    Here, we’re talking about inaction: Ramona’s character wasn’t developed, therefore (so the argument goes) the movie is sexist ===> because Harlem isn’t shown in a NY movie, the movie is racist ===> because the movie doesn’t punish immorality the movie is immoral.

  • Actions must be interpreted in context, and that includes intent. You’d rid art criticism of its essence and purpose with your approach.

    If you need to know the creator’s intent to do art criticism, then art criticism is already impossible. Besides, why should the intent of the creator matter? What matters is the work, and its impact on the person experiencing it.

    Here, we’re talking about inaction: Ramona’s character wasn’t developed, therefore (so the argument goes) the movie is sexist ===> because Harlem isn’t shown in a NY movie, the movie is racist ===> because the movie doesn’t punish immorality the movie is immoral.

    First of all, a sin of omission is still a sin. Second of all, you continue to oversimplify to the point of strawmanning. The movie is not sexist because Ramona’s character wasn’t developed; it’s sexist because Ramona is treated as a prize to be won for a fight between between men. There’s more than one way to reduce or eliminate this charge:

    You could have Ramona take a more active role, so it’s the fight of a man and a woman against other men for the woman’s freedom.

    You could develop her character enough that it becomes clear the movie regards her as a person, not a prize.

    You could have the prize be her freedom rather than possession of her (she and Scott don’t end up together).

    I’m sure there are other ways to do it, too — the point is that the movie didn’t do any of them. Ramona is a prize for the hero, not a full character in her own right.

  • MaryAnn

    This is exactly why I don’t agree, because I think the movie is countering, satirizing, and criticizing it. I think that’s the entire point of the movie, and I can’t grasp how people don’t see that in it.

    And I feel exactly the opposite: I can’t see how anyone *can’t* see how sexist it is.

    That doesn’t mean I’m saying you’re wrong, Tyler, to see what you see (or to not see what you don’t see). We have different experiences of the movie. And that’s fine.

    I’m sure there are other ways to do it, too — the point is that the movie didn’t do any of them. Ramona is a prize for the hero, not a full character in her own right.

    Exactly. As I noted in my review, the idea of a woman as a prize is absolutely endemic in popular storytelling. Sometimes — depending on the context and the execution of a story — it’s annoying in a minor way, but not worth mentioning… as in a story in which the male protagonist, say, goes off and does something heroic that has absolutely nothing to do with love or romance or relationships (stops bad guys from blowing up ice cream trucks, for instance), and then the last shot of the film is him returning home to his adoring wife. That’s annoying, but her being his reward for a job well done is not the point of the story.

    But in *Scott Pilgrim,* in this particular context and execution, it is unforgivable for Ramona not to be a more important participant in the story. That does NOT mean she has to be super strong or mega perfect: it means she DOES have to be a more fully rounded human character… especially if the film wants to satirize the idea of a woman as a prize.

    If the film works for you the way it is, Tyler (and others who defend it), that’s *fine.* I’m not trying to change your opinion. I *am* trying to explain why I don’t see it the way you do.

  • niamh

    I don’t know – I haven’t seen Scott Pilgrim so I can’t judge whether the film is sexist or not – but how do you deduce intent? We’re not talking about a court of law here, we’re talking about human relationships. If my boyfriend sleeps with someone else but ‘didn’t mean to do it’, does that mean I should be automatically okay with it? Relationships between men and women can be fractious. I don’t think you’ll ever get MaryAnn’s argument if you continue to look at this from Scott’s POV, because Scott’s male POV is necessarily privileged. Okay, so he’s not a hyper-masculine all-powerful character like some of the Evil Exes, he is ‘diminished’ in some way due to not being able to live up to this expectation. And by the end of the movie, he realises that he is fine all along by being himself. But in order to reach that moment, he has to embrace hyper-masculinity by kicking ass, basically. So it’s not particularly new or refreshing after all, in terms of resisting this stereotype. The only thing that can be said for Scott is, you know, he committed violent acts, but he was NICE about it. It was all done with the best intentions, etc.

    Now maybe from Scott’s POV it was with the best intentions – he cares about Ramona, Gideon is a jerk, etc. But, from the outside looking in, what does someone else see? Do they see Scott as a refreshing alternative to heteronormative notions of masculinity? Or do they see an intimidated young man trying to conform, to mimic the self-same patterns of behaviour he supposedly resists?

    That’s the problem with these films. Sensitive young man finds girl of his dreams, struggles with concept of his own masculinity, conquers it, and coincidentally enough adheres more to traditional stereotypes at the end of the movie than he did at the start. That’s not really being fresh or original or offering an alternative mode of thinking to the usual fare of Hollywood. 500 Days of Summer is another example – stylistically beautiful but the gender politics of it all were a little problematic. To be honest, I think it traps both lead characters in traditional gender tropes that they are unable to get out of. The only thing that can be said as regards this continual revisiting of the neurotic male is that it obviously triggers something in male filmmakers, rings true somewhere, because these films appear again and again. None of them have been made by women though, that I can think of. So at least this male figure makes sense to the men who create him. The women… I don’t recognise, mainly because there’s nothing to recognise them by. I still have no concept of Summer in 500 Days as a person – and yeah, I get that it’s supposedly from Tom’s POV, but you know most film critics would still be on the case if it had been the other way around. I recently read a review of a Nicole Holofcener film (not MaryAnn) where the reviewer lamented that none of the male characters were three-dimensional. That just says it all, doesn’t it?

  • I don’t know – I haven’t seen Scott Pilgrim so I can’t judge whether the film is sexist or not – but how do you deduce intent? We’re not talking about a court of law here, we’re talking about human relationships. If my boyfriend sleeps with someone else but ‘didn’t mean to do it’, does that mean I should be automatically okay with it?

    I love this example! It’s exactly what I’ve been trying to say. It doesn’t matter whether your boyfriend intended to hurt you by cheating, he STILL CHEATED. Likewise, it doesn’t matter if Edgar Wright and his crew were twirling their mustachios and dreaming of tying Ramona to the train tracks when they made the movie, it’s STILL SEXIST.

  • Tom L.

    You could have the prize be her freedom rather than possession of her (she and Scott don’t end up together).

    Why does she have to not end up with Scott for the prize to be her freedom rather than possession of her? It seems to me that the prize was her freedom. She walked away completely free at the end. Then, when Scott asked if she wanted to be with him, she said yes of her own free will.

  • bitchen frizzy

    We’re not talking about a court of law here, we’re talking about human relationships. If my boyfriend sleeps with someone else but ‘didn’t mean to do it’, does that mean I should be automatically okay with it?

    Of course not. Should you automatically assume he’s lying?

    This is why I’m calling your argument reductionist: you’re arguing sexism the way a Sunday-school teacher explains morality to six-year-olds.

    TEACHER: “Killing people is wrong.”
    TYKE: “What about soldiers, or policemen who shoot bad guys with guns?”
    TEACHER: “Be quiet. You’re making my brain hurt.”

    You spot an obvious trope – man fighting to get girl, and you conclude “Sexism!” with no analysis at all of how that fits into the character arc or how that trope is being used illustratively or metaphorically. As for the fact that he doesn’t actually win her that way – well, let’s just ignore that contrary evidence.

    That’s as reactionary as concluding that a movie with immorality is immoral.

    First of all, a sin of omission is still a sin.

    Only with intent. Otherwise it’s just an omission. One cannot commit a “sin of omission” without deliberately failing to do something you ought.

  • bitchen frizzy

    There’s more than one way to reduce or eliminate this charge:

    You could have Ramona take a more active role, so it’s the fight of a man and a woman against other men for the woman’s freedom.

    You could develop her character enough that it becomes clear the movie regards her as a person, not a prize.

    You could have the prize be her freedom rather than possession of her (she and Scott don’t end up together).

    I’m sure there are other ways to do it, too — the point is that the movie didn’t do any of them. Ramona is a prize for the hero, not a full character in her own right.

    So you’re setting forth the conditions by which this movie can escape being labeled “sexist”.

    The Hayes Code did exactly the same thing with regards to immorality. It had listed requirements to be met in order to escape the label.

    Same mentality.

    And why do you equate them ending up together with him “possessing her”?

  • niamh

    The difference being that the Hayes Code was actively enforced and had a very strong influence on the formation of a film narrative. Do you think our observations about sexist tropes in cinema have made a damaging impact to cinema? Really?! We’re simply making observations, and you jump down our throats about the Hayes Code. Also you fail to engage any of our points except by reiterating this one continual reference of yours.

    There’s no point in engaging you anymore, really, if that’s the only way you can respond. Regardless of how this trope is being used – maybe it IS a refreshing take on the old adage of a girl being fought over by two men – it’s still being used. Making a tiny change in the age-old stereotype doesn’t stop it from being an age-old stereotype. It just makes it an age-old stereotype with a “fresh” twist, or whatever producers say these days.

    So why do you keep harping on about the Hayes Code? We’re not saying movies like this should be banned or restricted. We’re saying that people should see them for what they are. We’re saying that this looks like a missed opportunity to represent a more rounded female character in film. We’re asking why this occurs so much, and who is going to make the kind of film that features women that we can recognise? We’re hardly ‘imposing’ our will on the world, seeing as we’ve been served so well by movies in the past (!) Personally, when people start responding to me implying that I’m a censor, then I know they’re threatened by my argument. Because I never mentioned censorship at all, or anything of the kind – you did. My only ‘crime’, seemingly, is in not finding the depiction of heterosexual relationships here ‘good enough’ for women.

  • I love this example! It’s exactly what I’ve been trying to say. It doesn’t matter whether your boyfriend intended to hurt you by cheating, he STILL CHEATED.

    Ironically, this is almost exactly the example the movie uses to make almost exactly that point.

    Scott is killed amidst admitting the fact that he cheated on Knives. When Ramona asks, “You cheated on me with her?” Scott replies, “No, I cheated on Knives…with you…?” She says, “Is there a difference?” Scott replies again, “You weren’t wronged?” At that moment he gets stabbed, and killed. One of the things he realizes in subspace is that cheating on one of them is cheating on both of them, and admits as much during the second time through, apologizing to both women. I admit the scene is a little pat, but it’s a frenetic movie, and the point should really be that Scott learns the difference, and the movie illustrates it.

    This is a perfect example of why I don’t understand why people are railing against the movie so hard. Even if the movie doesn’t make these points as effectively as you would like, the alternative is lots and lots of movies that don’t make this point at all or would never consider it. Scott would win by doing all the wrong things, and there wouldn’t be an attempt to shift things in the right direction. Isn’t there anything good to be gleaned here?

  • bitchen frizzy

    Also you fail to engage any of our points except by reiterating this one continual reference of yours.

    Maybe I’m not being blunt enough…

    We’re simply making observations, and you jump down our throats about the Hayes Code.

    I’m drawing a parallel between your mentality and the mentality behind the Hayes Code, and I’ve made that very clear. I make no accusations of censorship on your part. Accusing me of such is disingenuous.

    Regardless of how this trope is being used – maybe it IS a refreshing take on the old adage of a girl being fought over by two men – it’s still being used.

    So what?

    If you are arguing that it’s inherently sexist to use the trope and the material becomes tainted with sexism thereby, then my observation about your mindset is correct. And of course you don’t see that attitude as closeminded or limiting. In your mind, the artform would be much elevated and improved if these tropes were eliminated. This is the only point worth engaging, because this is what your whole argument comes down to: movie is bad and tainted because it has a trope that I don’t like, and it doesn’t matter how or why that trope is used.

    We’re saying that people should see them for what they are.

    And you do, and we who don’t agree with you don’t, because… you’re on the side of the angels?

    “Art never apologizes!”

  • Nega-Scott

    If Scott were to lose then Ramona’s future love life would be in control of Gideon for example the chip in her head at the end of the movie, and in the comics it’s the GLOW which lets her use sub space and let’s Gideon acsess her thoughts

    Also all the other people Gideon dated are locked up in cryogenic chambers but that’s in the comic

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