Scott Pilgrim is a movie that appeals not only to a certain audience via interest (video games and anime), but also through taste (humor type), and life experience.
This isn’t that far off from every other story portrayed through books, movies, or other means. We bring our personal experiences to the table in everything we do, especially when we communicate. Fiction is communication that transcends time and space. (You are reading this at a different time and place from where I originally wrote it – example stolen by Stephen King in his memoir.)
Signs and Symbols are things given meaning on the level of the person and the community. A flag can be a symbol of freedom, and a rose a symbol of love. However, to the person who had been shoved into a rose bush at a young age and come out damaged, a rose might represent pain and violence.
There is Symbolism in just about every moment of Scott Pilgrim. Scott Pilgrim is literally dating a High Schooler, still rebounding from his big heartbreak a year before. Is he literally headbutting people so hard that they burst?
Probably not. When someone enters a new relationship and meets that person’s ex, they are confronted by that history. Not in a literal way, but still in a real way. That person has to confront their worth and face the idea that this ex may be better than them in some way.
- “Short Answer? Being a vegan just makes you better than most people.”
- “She’s with Gideon now.” “Aww, it’s probably just because he’s better than you.”
Is Scott literally fighting these exes to win her heart? No, he is confronted by her past because he has recently entered into a relationship with her. This explains a lot of why Ramona doesn’t do the fighting. In fact, the question “Why doesn’t Ramona fight?” may lead to some interesting answers.
Ex #4 – in this scene, Ramona does participate in the fighting. This is partially because Scott can’t bring himself to hit a girl, and partially because the gender implications of the relationship have changed things up a little bit. In the end what is important is that Scott needed a little help from Ramona to reconcile this tricky part of her history.
At the end of the movie, we find out about Ramona’s chip. Once again, this cannot be literal, not by our current scientific knowledge. Instead it suggests she was symbolically held captive. Have you ever known a girl who had an ex, the one who was just so sly and subtly coercive that he always seems to worm his way back into her life, and won’t let her alone so she can move on?
Having just come out of a relationship with a controlling guy, Ramona pits her new “nice guy”, up against her own history. She needs to analyze this new guy in every way to make sure that he will not treat her the same way, later on down the road.
There is a strong moral taught through the movie on honesty and dating. One should not date another person just because they are “good enough for now”, or just to avoid being alone. This is exactly the trap Scott falls into when he dates Knives – it is a common trap for those who have been heartbroken to run into the arms of others; relationships that they already know will go nowhere. We usually call it “rebound”, and rebounds hurt people. Usually the person rebounding does not realize what they are doing – they are acting from instinct, a fear of being alone.
In this way, the climactic moment of the movie comes in the moment where Scott confronts Gideon for himself. He has looked at himself and realized his mistake in being a “ladykiller wannabe jerky-jerk”, which helps him make restitution to Kim, Knives, Ramona (who has broken a few hearts herself), and in the end – himself (NEGA Scott).
The literal and the symbolic come together in the stories of the three main characters (Scott, Ramona and Knives) in several common themes that teach honesty in dating, how to deal with the pain of break-ups, and how to accept ourselves and move on, having reconciled the past.
EDIT: For a more specific Break-Down of the Symbols in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, here is the follow-up post: