I go back and forth on how much I actually like the Scott Pilgrim series. It’s one of those things that triggers the elitist muscle in my brain when I hear people talking about it and I wonder if people understood it the same way I did and do now. I think a lot of people just saw the character as someone like them who got a girl and fought with swords and missed the big point that was left at the end of the series.
Scott Pilgrim does have a lot in common with a lot of people in my generation, which is what makes him such a phenomenal character. However, what makes him so realistic as a person are his glaring flaws. He’s selfish and self-absorbed. He’s lazy. He doesn’t have a job. He’s a mooch both monetarily and emotionally. Most importantly, Scott exists in a world where he is the protagonist and only is story matters, which is one of those important themes that’s left lying around.
Memory plays a big part in the story. Both Scott and Ramona are confronting their past relationships. The way Scott remembers things shapes his character, and when the realization of how he has been making the same mistake as Gideon is what allows him to actually see his mistakes and grow from them as a person.
Memories only ever give one side of the story, and that’s whoever is remembering them. It’s easy to alter what happened to make yourself the victim of the hero, or that everything was some wonderful fairy tale like Scott does. That’s what allows us to look for other people to blame and avoid growing up.
There is an interesting parallel between him and Gideon that makes the finale. When Scott finally gets it, he grows up over the space of 5 pages. Brain Lee O’Malley makes it visible on his face. You can see a difference in the way he speaks and the way he looks. The new shirt and new sword and the “power of understanding” are just the trappings of his newfound maturity and his realization that he’s actually done a lot of wrong to a lot of people and he starts to make it right.
A lot of comics are about growing up and learning to live with your mistakes. That is literally the entire plot of The Amazing Spider-Man. Peter messes up all the time and has clean it up. He’s a superhero because he knows it’s the right thing to do. He isn’t in this for vengeance or power, but because he made a mistake and it cost him his uncle. He grew up when Uncle Ben died and now he does everything he can to make sure that tragedy doesn’t happen to anyone else.
And that’s growing up. It’s dealing with your mistakes every single day. When Scott confronts his demons (literally) in volume 6 he and Kim have this exchange
K: If you keep forgetting your mistakes, you’ll just keep making them again.
S: I don’t care! It’s better than having to live with myself!
And Kim’s right. It’s not until Scott actually looks his mistakes dead in the eye that he realized exactly what he’s done and what he needs to do. He starts changing right there. Actually seeing everything you’ve ever done and how it’s affected other people will do that. Change is what we get when we grow up, and sometimes it sucks. Believe me. I’m 21 years old with an English major who cleans hookahs for 7 dollars an hour. In the 4 months I spent without a job I had a lot of time alone to myself to think about a lot of things. Now that I actually have a reason to get out of bed again all of that’s settled and starting to clear up.
One of the reasons I like Scott so much as a character is because I see a lot of myself in him. I get so concerned in my precious little life that I forget that other people actually have feelings. We all want to be the protagonist of the world so badly that we overlook everyone else’s subplot. We let our own stories take over what really happened, and we end up hurting people we care the most about just by being insensitive.
Scott and I learned it the easy way. We’ve both left people feeling terrible and went on our merry way wondering why they were upset. That ex-post facto realization hits like a train. It makes you change your life and try to undo every bit of hurt. But you can’t. There’s no undo button, no control-z. Things can’t be the same, but you can go forward.