Friday, March 18, 2011

Regarding Ramona

The problem with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is that there was a severe lack of Ramona using her hammer.

Which was kick ass.

Thus one can understand why I wanted to see her whip that sucker out and start whaling on her "evil" exes herself.

It's not really surprising that my problems with Scott Pilgrim as a film is its presentation of gender. And it bugs me because I really think that they were trying to deconstruct a lot of the annoying constructions that populate the typical rom-com/action movie.

First, Ramona: I know they excused her passivity with the Gideon-chip (which, btw, should have had more screen time), but I would have liked more than a few second reference to it in which she just glosses over it with her fingers.

I would have really liked to have seen her actively fighting against it.

Second, the Evil Exes: I understand that the conceit of the film is that Gideon has some issues regarding relationships and women in particular. In this way, he never gets over the idea (unlike Scott, supposedly) that women are objects to be fought over, won, etc. Thus it is in character that he would view it as necessary that the exes fight Scott because, in his perspective, the woman has no agency in a relationship at all.

However, the movie doesn't fully succeed in rebutting this idea. The Evil Exes represent to some extent Ramona's emotional baggage -- not Scott's. Thus, though Scott defeats the exes, he's essentially fighting her battles for her. At the end of the movie, she's still running.

It's frustrating because this is, to some extent, a movie about a romance -- a relationship. Throughout the show, Scott has been portrayed as not being her equal, but at the end, they are still "unequal" in how they have grown: Scott has (supposedly) learned an Invaluable Lesson and Ramona is still running away from her emotional baggage, just like she was at the beginning of the movie.

I would have much preferred it if she had played a much larger role in defeating Gideon than simply kneeing him in the groin. And even though the line "let's both be girls" was funny (and yes, I laughed) - oh my god. The gender implications is head-desk worthy. Off the top of my head, it denigrates the female sex while also portraying Ramona as an emasculator of men, which is sort of an undercurrent in the flick (particular when Scott asks if she's always been the dumper, not the dumpee, which is evocative of Scott's own dumping experience).

Also, it was not lost on me that the only time Ramona really does get a chance to fight her evil ex is the female one. The second time she gets to fight is Knives. I don't think it's possible to separate these two fights from their connotations - there has been a long history of sexualizing women with their catfights. And even though I don't think the idea that women should only fight women because it's sexy or whatever was going through Wright's mind, I think those involved failed to see that by only having Ramona fight (primarily) women -- there just seemed to be a lack of awareness in those particular instances.

Which, don't even get me started on Knives. I'm glad she matured though, even if it was a bit hasty. But why couldn't Ramona mature too? Gah.

Third, Scott: I think the movie nicely deconstructed the idea that "love" involves fighting over women by having Gideon shatter the weapon Scott unlocked by learning the power of love. That was super nice. However, they promptly undermined it by having Knives, at the end, say that he had been fighting for her all this time.

Which is why I've addendumed all of my Scott-learned-his-lesson bits with a "supposedly." Because. I mean, really. If he had been "really" fighting over her, he wouldn't have gotten his sword of self-respect (which, by the way, is a weapon that Ramona needs to unlock and it would have been nice to have seen an equivalent /grouse).

I also liked that Scott had a bit of the Trickster about him in the way he defeated the Skater guy and the Vegan ex. That was pretty cool.

Tricksters for the win! Mind over matter! yeah.

Final thoughts complete with Dream Ending:

I know that it is unreasonable to ask that people consider the stories they're making and that they tailor their art to address society in some way. Scott Pilgrim is very refreshing as a film, and I really enjoyed it, even though the industry is inundated with films about boys becoming men with the help of a woman (eg, the scene where Scott is dead and Ramona appears to him on her skates). So, in that context, it would be nice to see more movies where the movie focuses on how a woman changes -- or at least acknowledges that it would happen without brushing it over (Knives) or not addressing it (Ramona).

And yet, I also know that it is unreasonable to expect that a person must change. Some people don't (but it's never as simple as that, of course - the nuance must be found). So, in that context, I don't mind (on some level) that Ramona is still running from her emotional baggage. However, I would also like to know more about the "why" -- as she stands in the film, she's less Ramona and more a catalyst to kick off Scott from boy to man.

I think that Ramona and Knives had more in common. Knives is this love sick girl who's obsessing over Scott (even to the idea that she thinks Ramona "stole" Scott - an idea that always makes my skin crawl) - and of course, she gets a reality check when Scott confesses what really happened, which is probably my favorite moment in the film (paraphrased):

Ramona: you cheated on me?
Scott: No, I cheated on Knives with you.
Ramona: There's a difference?

I let loose an internal cheer because -- yes! Exactly.

Anyway, I feel that Ramona and Knives are these two girls who are trying to come into their own selves -- and it would have been so much cooler if they went off together to have their own adventures rather than having Scott join Ramona.

It's not because I want some lesbian love between Ramona and Knives. I think this movie would work better if it wasn't about the romance, the need for Scott and Ramona to end up together in some ways.

After all, if Scott truly self-respected himself and truly loved Ramona, he would not need to end up with Ramona at the end of the film.

And it would have been nice for the film to follow through its sometimes strong, sometimes weak deconstructions of the genre with a killer bitch-slap like that.

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