Scott Pilgrim’s Symbols: Breaking Down the Allegory
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an allegorical, multi-watch movie. Some of the absurd humor will strike you immediately the first time, but some of the deeper messages and layered symbolic humor will hit you on subsequent viewings.
An Allegory is a story where symbolism is taken to the extreme. Instead of having one symbol, (like a sword that stands for Love, or Self-Respect), there are symbols upon symbols. The setting itself, the conflicts in the plot, sometimes entire characters are often representative symbols.
Example – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan represents Christ, Narnia is another world which he saves through selfless sacrifice. The personal stories of Edmund, Tumnus, and Lucy represent Christ’s power to influence people’s lives, give them a second chance, and make them into better people.
In Symbolism, we call the thing acting as the symbol the vehicle, and what it represents is the tenor. For example;
- The Vehicle – the flaming red sword
- The Tenor – The Power of Love
In Scott Pilgrim, the situation is very similar. Here are a few symbollic examples from the movie that may help you break down the allegory in your future viewings of the movie.
FIGHT! – When Scott is confronted by Ramona’s evil exes, this suggests that symbolically, he is fighting an inner battle. Here is the totally hot girl of his dreams, and he’s been living like a loser. Is he good enough for her?
Continue? 10, 9, 8… – When Scott and Knives have just finished playing the Ninja arcade game, she asks “Do you want to keep going?” This represents the situation Scott is in. He knows he should break up with Knives, but he is having a hard time coming out and saying it. Some of the set-up for this symbol comes from Scott’s conversation with his roommate Wallace earlier. Wallace demanded that Scott “break up with Knives, today”, to which Scott replied “But it’s haaaaard!”
Ramona Joins the Fight – Against Ex #4, Ramona joins in the fight. This suggests that Scott may have felt insecure at the news that Ramona had experimented with her sexuality. “You had a sexy phase?” In order to get past this tricky bit of Ramona’s history, Scott needs to involve her in his personal battle.
The Extra Life – The tenor of this symbol is self-evident. Scott says it out loud when he is asked, “What are you doing?” and he answers, “Getting a Life.”
Leveling Up, Experience Points/Money – These experience points are gained throughout the movie until Scott “Levels Up”. Each time he defeats an ex, these rewards are given. This is what we call the vehicle in the symbol. The tenor, or what the symbol represents, is Scott Pilgrim’s progress in his journey to regain his Self-Respect. We can assume this because of the evidence in Scott’s second attempt at fighting Gideon. He gets points for making amends with his friends, and for taking himself seriously when confronted instead of babbling meekly.
The Second Battle – If my analysis of the two symbols above are true, then we might be able to assume that the entire Second Battle is a result of Scott Pilgrim’s change of heart. He’s learned that he’s been something of a wanna-be-lady-killer-jerky-jerk, and judging Ramona for her faults. During the second battle he prioritizes making amends, and fighting for himself – meaning he is focused on becoming a better person.
The Power of Self-Respect – With the second sword, Scott puts up a better fight, comes at Gideon with a more powerful two-handed blow instead of the flailing one-armed strike from earlier (when he fought with the Power of Love). Yet, just as before, the sword eventually shatters. Nobody’s confidence is impenetrable, everyone doubts themselves eventually. This leads to the next symbol on the list…
Two Player Mode! – When Knives joins in the fight against Gideon, we could translate this symbol a few ways. Perhaps Scott and Knives found a way to remain good friends. Maybe they found closure and that helped Scott move on in his personal battle. What do you think?
Nega Scott – At the end of the game, Scott faces off against himself. Instead of a fight, they make plans to get banana pancakes together later (As far as I can tell from the dialogue, lol!). This represents Scott making amends with himself, forgiving himself after he’s done what he can to make restitution and repair the damage he has caused in other people’s lives.
This blog is a follow-up of this previous post: