Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Scott Pilgrimfest, Vol 1: vs. Miles vs. Finest Hour

So, it's the Summer of Scott. The comic's final chapter dropped a few weeks ago, the movie hype machine crushes all in its path, and I'm addicted to the Plumtree song that gave Mr Pilgrim his name. So, I've reacted in that particularly Alex Spencer way, which is to think of four or five things I can write on the topic as the SoS (as absolutely no-one is calling it) unfolds. First, a simple review of Vol. 6, the final chapter. Or it would be, had I not decided two heads - two sexy, messy-haired heads - would be better than one and asked LookiMakeMusic's very own Miles 'Davis' Bradley.

Finest Hour sliver
A perfect segue about me fighting through the last level of Mario Galaxy 2 is interrupted and wasted. The conversation is peppered with synchronicities, then talking over each other, then silence. But, hey, you've used IM before, you know the ropes. Spoilers of pretty much all of Scott Pilgrim follow. Also: some salty language, due to Miles being a very naughty man, and Scott Pilgrim being a bit of, no other word for it, a dick. A quick trim of the fat, a few bits added to make more sense/make me look better, and I present the results...

Miles: Do you want to do some scene setting before we get going? Because I want the world to know that I am eating some really pretty bad "Hairy Bikers" brand lemon-flavoured crisps. And that directly to my right is a copy of Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and the new Stars record.
Alex: I am on a family dining room table. I have just made some pretty frickin' gourmet orange/pineapple squash.
...So, Miles, which Scott Pilgrim character do you fancy most?
Miles: I don’t know any more. Probably Ramona. But Knives has "come of age" in book six and is finally dressing like a human being, so that helps.
Which Scott Pilgrim character do you fancy most post book six, Alex?
Alex: Kim Pine. Obv. She is my grumpy freckled Dreamgirl.
Miles: Ah, this was the first book where I liked Kim. And I'm not sure if that's me. Or if it's Kim getting nicer with age. But up until now I have hated, HATED, the fans who wanted Kim and Scott to end up together. After this one, I can certainly see where they were coming from.
Alex: Interestingly, this was the first book I liked Knives (that much). Relevantly: "no longer a child in the eyes of the law", right? That was the moment I started diggin' on this book
jaccuseMiles: I think mine: "J'Accuse - French".
Alex: Oh, that was brilliant, actually. Did you think this was a particularly funny book, as Scott Pilgrims go?
Miles: Relevant: I had the longest and most serious relationship of my life break up a little while before the book came out and in the time between that and me reading it for the first time, I behaved somewhat poorly for a bit, so it'd be fair to say that the whole thing kind of emotionally beat the shit out of me. But in between the crying and "oh God, me too" moments, I laughed and giggled a LOT.
I'd say it's one of the funniest, if not the funniest.
Alex: It's definitely funnier than Vol. 5, aka 'The One Where Everything Goes A Bit Wrong'.
Miles: It's important to be a dick sometimes so you can relate to popular works of narrative art.
Alex: I think that was my only issue with Finest Hour, actually: I don't have much relatable experience (5 being a lot closer to certain bones).
Miles: See, your problem is you've never been a dick.
Alex:I think Phonogram did all the 'I have a cock/have been a cock' lessons for me and made me, annoyingly, a better person before I got to notch up any experience in it.
Miles: Whereas for me with the first series of Phonogram I was busy being virginal, yearny and theoretical and for the second series of Phonogram was I being happily monogamous and pleasant.
[a moment of spooky synchronicity follows]
Miles: So it turns out the entire series was a moralist lesson in being nice.
Alex: So... Scott Pilgrim: is the pivotal message Don't Be A Dick?
Miles: Well, maybe. Or perhaps it's more like: When you have been a dick, it is important to recognise you have been a dick and not run from it. Or, as the Dali Lama says, "When you lose, don't lose the lesson".
Alex: Which is what makes Scott the good guy, and Gideon the baddie?
Miles: In the end, yes. There's been a fair bit of talk about the sympathetic/unsympatheticness of Scott in the build up to the film's release. And it's interesting to me how people react to him differently. And the running joke with the MemoryCam in book six adresses the matter in a manner that is laugh-out-loud funny but always followed by that moment of "Oh, yeah..." And you wonder if you should have cheering for this guy in those moments.
Alex: (Memory Cam is the most perfect part of the book. Probably the series.)
WHUD
Miles: Although you know what I think the best gut-punch is? The end of the Scott/Envy exchange that very, very quickly cuts to the heart of the matter of the way that relationships end and the... I don't know, the many different ways they are interpretted from the inside and out - "I remember you breaking my heart." The feeling is somewhat mutual." Having read everything leading up to that with Scott painting it as straightforward ‘Envy became terrible!’ that bit's absolutely mind blowing in a quiet, sad way
Alex: You say different people react differently, right? So, for you, how is Scott?
Miles: I think he means well, I think he's perhaps a bit too... in thrall to pretty girls. He is a dick to Knives at the start, and The Lisa Miller Incident is... he does not look good. But I'd say that makes him human rather than actively a dick. A little oblivious, a little selfish at times but basically a reasonable dude?
Alex: Ok, then I shall come in with my cutting question. Which is: do you find Scott relatable?
Miles: Yes. Sure. I mean, not that I've directly been in situations like the Knives and Lisa things. But I understand the feelings there.
Alex: See, I kinda feel like, with Scott, it’s like: you understand there's a gap between the stuff he does and who he is. And that line works as long as you can think 'wow, he is a bit me'. And that’s why we can forgive a character who is essentially a dick, right? So Scott needs to be a bit universally relatable for the book to work.
Miles: Well, put it this way - I think I'm more Scott than I am any other character in the book
Alex: Me too. And I know at least one other person who thinks Scott was, like, unconsciously modelled on them. I think this might be the Key to Scott Pilgrim. Because he's set up as Just Like Us, he has a definite leeway for getting away with some horrific, subtly so, but horrific behaviour.
Miles: But it's also nice, hell, identity/personality-affirming when he comes around and Does The Right Thing.
Scott Wallpaper
Miles: I think Scott's obliviousness is his quality I most identify with. Speaking of which,
how do you feel about Steven Stills's ending?
Alex: I was a bit ‘eh, cheap’ at first. But then you go back and Knives laughing at Scott saying she likes Steven Stills, and how he's spending all that time producing the album in the last book... and it makes a lot of sense. Both in terms of narrative and to do it that way, given that you're right along with Scott. Who is - as always – clueless. O’Malley pulls this double illusion, where you start out thinking Scott’s the greatest guy, and basically believe everything he does. He’s clueless about himself, even. And then this one is all about picking that apart.
Miles: Absolutely. You never feel manipulated, through the revelations in Book Six, even when it turns out you literally have been. It just... it makes sense that we have been sat with Scott and he hasn't realised any of this shit. And now he's being forced to and so are we.
Also: if this is the book where Kim* and Knives become nice human beings, it's also the book where you realise that Wallace is not entirely harmless.
Alex: Yeah. Dude. I love me some Wallace Wells but he is nasty in this.
Wallace Wells
Miles: This is the first book where the Big Bad is actually really properly present. How did you find him, Alex?
Alex: Gideon was kind of exactly what he was set up to be, wasn't he? I mean, I thought he'd turn out to be not that too bad a guy. But the kicker came in how similar he is to Scott, instead. Also: 31 years old? Ew
Miles: That was unexpected and a little odd. It definitely helps creep-up the depiction of Gideon and Ramona's first meeting.
Alex: Although, how hypocritical is that? Given our hero is the Sketchy-Ass 24-year-old,
Miles: You're right, and maybe that's intentional, perhaps you're supposed to double take and consider the Scott/Knives thing in light of that. Oh: "But it was horrible for everyone. Including you" = brilliant.
Alex: (some quick maths suggests it is the exact same age gap as between Scott & Knives).
Miles: I love the thing about him accidentally forming the League when drunk on the internet. I FEEL YOU, GIDEON.
Alex: I loved how real and ... almost throwaway that was. Like: The central high concept of the series? Yeah, that's not really much of a thing.
Scott bed
Miles: I like how it felt very much as if Bryan was really completely comfortable with his universe on this one. Five was, in places, kind of maybe a bit of a crawl. But this has the same constant forward motion of 4. Well. Once Scott finally gets off the couch.
Alex: Confession: I still don't really get the head-glow/subspace highway thing.
Miles: I got the vague jist. Something to do with Gideon doing evil magic resulting in Scott having the issues with his past and then Ramona having her ... thing ... with the ... glow?
But, I felt that was probably me being dumb rather than the writing being bad.
Alex: No, I think that's one place where it fell down a bit.
Miles: But by that point you're won over and go along with it.
Alex: Yeah… I just can’t help wanting to know for narrative reasons (the glowy heads being one of the series’ major mysteries) but then, moreso, to grasp the Metaphor behind it.
Miles: Mm. Minus points for ‘vagueness re: magic' then.
Scott Nom Nom Nom
Alex: I feel like we’re entering Final Comments territory.
Miles: It's really, really good. The whole series is essential, but I realise that for me, it's half of the package of stuff I'd give people to explain what the inside of my head is like. So I was never going to be dissapointed by the ending. But I still totally wasn't.
It's funny and moving and brilliant and the ending that the series deserves. And now I am so stoked for the movie that I might explode. If I did, Alex would get my record collection and a +3 bonus to "Grief". (+2? I'm not sure how much you like me. Maybe only +2*)
Alex:I think it didn't rock my brain the way I maybe hoped it to, but I've never been one for endings. I wish I had more dick-experience to fully appreciate it, but it was exactly the ending the series deserved (even if I didn't get to live out my marrying-Kim-Pine-and-growing-old-together fantasy).
I think this is the point where we do a RATING: AWESOME gag, right?
Miles: Well, yes. Except I'd go RATING: PERFECT ... RELATIVELY PERFECT.
Alex: (‘cause nothing in life's fully perfect. See: Important Life Lessons of Scott Pilgrim.)
Miles: Well. Define ‘fully perfect’?
Alex: Your mom.


*Kim was never anything but the greatest human being. Miles is just silly.
**It would be +3, Miles.

8 comments:

Christian O. said...

Re: The whole "glow" thing-

I agree that it wasn't quite as clearly defined as it had needed to be.

I jokingly theorized on Twitter that Gideon was the Cassandra Nova to Scott Pilgrim's Professor X, but with the reveal of "the glow" basically being the Black Bug Room, I'm not entirely sure it's that off.

Alex said...

Do you think that the lack o' reveal was intentional, or one of those makes-sense-to-the-writer things?

Alex said...

(Also, the comic I read either side of this Scott Pilgrim was New X-Men. Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.)

Christian O. said...

I don't really know but it struck me as being unintentionally vague. I understood it as the following: A. Gideon built his fortune on it, B. it spread like a disease, and C. it makes you live in your own little ego-centric dreamworld and as a consequence it alienates you from other people. However I'm not entirely sure how it all connects. Other than it has the same effect as a Bright Eyes' album.

And seriously, read Morrison's New X-men - not only is it great in parts, but it also totally supports my theory. Morrison sort of proposed that there's such a thing as White Hot Room and a Black Bug Room. The Black Bug Room is (quoting Marvel Database) "[...] a hallucinatory representation of the unconscious of a person. Any person entering there is losing contact with reality and he's acting only under the influence of his secret fears." Whereas the White Hot Room is the exact opposite - You come into contact with everything and all lies are burnt away. As such it is also where the Phoenix Force originates from.

http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/marveldatabase/images/9/92/X-Men_116_Page_13_Panel_4.jpg


Why do I feel like Scott back in Vol. 5 now? Did any of this make sense to you? Am I rambling? Why is all communication failing tonight?

Tom said...

Hey, *I* coined "the Summer of Scott"...

Tom said...

and I've read the final book now (in a sneaky fashion). Nice ending, wish I'd read it in one sitting mind rather than two far-apart ones. (And in a hurry in case the bookshop worker spotted me reading an entire book in their store and asked me to leave.) Also, "cheap" though Stephen Stills' ending was, I'd seen it coming a mile back.

Now I need to find someone who's a) read the books and b) hasn't seen the movie and c) wants to see the movie and d) wouldn't mind seeing it with me...

Alex said...

Hey, I definitely need to see it again.

Tom said...

:-)

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Videogames, film, music, comics: feed them into the Alex-Spencer machine and out come neat little articles. Like the ones you're looking at here.