In Regard to Scott Pilgrim

So, being a geek and a movie lover usually sucks big time. Year after year, I get to watch some of my favorite books butchered on the big screen; I have to endure the slings and arrows of, well, inaccurate slings and arrows in medieval films. I cringe when they miscast favorite super heroes and bring me to the verge of tears with terrible dialogue or horrendously “re-imagined” plot devices.

And then, there’s those torturous glimpses of films that were almost good, or televisions shows that were pulled past their prime. We geeks are forever at the mercy of the marketing gurus behind film and television, who so often have no clue whatsoever of how to help a show succeed, let alone promote it (yes in fact, I am still bitter about Firefly).

Going in to watch Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, I knew it’d been touted as the next geekiest thing since a d20, but who am I to trust the bigwigs of marketing in Hollywood? No one. I didn’t read the comics, and I’d only seen a few previews, and I happened to stumble upon a few rather curious reviews of the film. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones where the reviewers weren’t actually complaining about the film, they were complaining about the audience at the film. Yes, you read that right. The reviewers weren’t complaining about the film itself, but the people watching it. Super classy, eh?

Linda Holmes of NPR hit it right on the head with her recent article “Scott Pilgrim’ Versus The Unfortunate Tendency To Review the Audience” where she details some of the decidedly more cruel responses to the movie, including a reviewer at The Boston Phoenix who describes Scott Pilgrim as a “dork-pandering assault” and claims Michael Cera is “irritating” due partially to “the non-stop Pavlovian laugh track provided by the audience at the screening I attended.” Translation: Omg the geeks were all laughing and I didn’t get the jokes, so clearly this movie sucks.

Holmes continues with similar reviews from The St. Petersburg Times, The New York Observer (claiming the film is “directed at an audience with generational ADD”) and, one of my favorites, from The Philadelphia Weekly, calling it “an insular, punishingly alienating experience preaching only to the faithful, devoted hearts of arrested 12-year-old boys. It’s singularly fixated on video games and shallow visions of women as one-dimensional objects to be either obtained or discarded and offers no possible point of entry to anybody over the age of 30.”

And, important to point out, Holmes actually enjoyed Scott Pilgrim. As she puts it:

Here’s what I’m saying: I’m a woman, I’m in my late thirties, I can’t handle first-person shooters, I’m afraid of Comic-Con, and I really, really liked Scott Pilgrim vs. The World… I hope I’m not, you know, blowing your mind.

These whiny reviewers have missed the point by such a measure that I’m just, well, offended and irritated and doubtful as to whether anything I say will change their minds. I loved the movie. It was, hands down, the best film I’ve seen this year, and I haven’t laughed so much during a movie since I can remember. Yes, I’m a kid of the 80s. I grew up playing Mario and 8-bit games, and wishing my life had the same heroic capabilities of video games. And yes, I was in bands, and was an outcast, and fell in love and fell on my face. So, I’m your dream demographic, really.

But back to the nasty reviews. While it seems so obvious to say this, I’m going to do it anyway: if you don’t understand something, that doesn’t mean you have to make fun of it. Reviewers, really. Are we in grade school again? Are you honestly falling back to the schoolyard behavior of your childhood and poking fun at the kids recounting their D&D sessions over lunch? ‘Cause that’s all this sounds like. And it’s just downright shameful. If you can’t review a film fairly, maybe you shouldn’t be reviewing it at all.

Geeks move the movie market, folks. We may not always like what happens, or the result (that’s sort of part of being a geek in the first place), but take a look at Comic-Con and tell me we don’t move the market. Look at the highest grossing films of all time and tell me geeks have nothing to do with it. Shaking your fists at us because one little film panders to some of our more unusual tastes is low. It’s just as bad as making fun of country music fans for enjoying country music, or ridiculing bird-watchers for liking to watch birds.

Here’s my advice to all the Cranky McCrankypants reviewers out there: go have some fun, will you? De-twist those wadded panties, put on a t-shirt and some flip-flops, and chill. Take a deep breath. You don’t have to make fun of the geeks anymore. We’ve have lives, families, aspirations; we’re smart, we’re sexy, we’re balanced. We’re women, we’re men, we’re grandparents, we’re kids. We’re everywhere. And, frankly, we don’t care if you don’t get our humor. We’re not going anywhere. You’re not going to scare us away.

So get used to being the only one in a crowded theater who doesn’t get the joke. Or, you know, take a chance and actually try to walk in our shoes because, you know what? We’ve got one hell of a bright future. With jetpacks.

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30 Responses to In Regard to Scott Pilgrim

  1. Loved your review of the reviewers :)

    Seriously, you expect them to understand geeks now that their intellectual level has increased enough, but it seems some people still lack the proper brains to understand what geeks are all about. I can't believe even adults, of our generation that is, still point their fingers and say "lalalaa balalaa".. they are ridiculous…

  2. All these crappy reviews are like a vegetarian reviewing a stake house. Can you really expect ANYTHING good from it?

  3. Very well-said indeed. I'm sick of pretentious critics who feel films should cater to their particular tastes, instead of them simply taking a chance and trying to understand the intent behind a film, or putting themselves in the shoes of the target audience.

  4. From Carol Cling (Las Vegas Review Journal):

    "Ultimately, however, 'Scott Pilgrim' never really gives us a reason to care about its title character, let alone his romance with Ramona.

    They're just excuses for more attention-deficit visual pyrotechnics, designed to disguise the essential emptiness of Scott Pilgrim — and his world.

    They may provide enough of a distraction for some audience members. But this is one world I wanted to stop — long before it stopped spinning."

    To Carol's credit… She often doesn't understand the content and/or context of geek films and thought the movie was based on a video game. I don't think she's ever watched a Michael Cera movie, because his character, Scott Pilgrim, actually matures to a degree.

  5. Seriously, I love your articles. This was absolutely spot on. Eventually, it will be our world, anyway. The fools who don't get it are getting too old to be relevant and soon our generation will be the voice. Keep preachin', sister!

  6. Well I'm not really sure WHY a vegetarian would be reviewing a stake house unless they were a vampire slaying veggie or perhaps a landscaping contractor-type veggie?

    Get ya facts straight, yo. And learn to review what you post before you post it. Goofball.

  7. Agreed, Joshua. It's a bit like a judge trying a case with the mind that everyone's guilty rather than being impartial…

    Wait wait wait…did that even make sense? Idk i'm tired…

  8. It's amazing. I'm going to see it again, buy the soundtrack, and get the Blu-Ray the second it releases (even though I don't have a Blu-Ray player). It's actually managed to kick my 7 year-long favorite movie out of the number one slot!

  9. I really hate to bring this up….but you all don't understand where they're coming from, so you're making fun of them for not understanding where YOU'RE coming from. I admit the critics are stupid. But seriously….when was the last time you took a movie critic seriously? They create nothing. They simply critique and (usually) destroy. (Besides, creativity is tough work, and who wants to do that??). Besides, critics seem to believe that movies are made only for them, or that they somehow represent us all. Is either count true?

    But I do expect more from those of you here who claim to be enlightened. This constant "us-vs-them" mentality permeates our society. Don't call them fools because they don't understand you. There are a lot of people in this world that YOU don't understand, and you regularly mock them, simply because you don't understand where they are coming from. Can you guess what type of person I might be talking about? Think hard.

  10. I have to give it a second viewing before I can decide where to put it in my all-time list. My gut reaction is to place it somewhere in the Top 15, but I have too many good films to just bump one down.

    But clearly one of the better and my favorite movies in the past few years.

  11. Does no one see the irony in Film Critics criticizing geeks?

    I mean, I know a couple people who grew up to be film critics (and knew some film critics from when I worked at newspapers)…

    I happened to sit across the D&D map from one of them when I was a teenager.

    Methinks these critics have forgotten (or pretend to have forgotten) from where they came…

  12. Well I'm sorry, I didn't realize a small typo excluded me from geekdom.
    And, errm, Pocket. It's a just a simile. Don't freak out.

  13. I think that's a valid point. Judging the intended audience (which they clearly hold as inferior to themselves) is hardly something a professional critic would do. It hurts their credibility when they can't be impartial and judge it for what it is. Too many seem to judge based on their own taste, versus critiquing from a neutral perspective.

    Then again, well-balanced reviews rarely get noticed. It's only the scathing offensive ones that seem to get attention; negative attention, mind you, but that still helps their career, still gets them word-of-mouth. That may not be the specific intent here, but it does seem like the conventional wisdom is often pushed aside. Like a child or a pet that acts up just to get some kind of parental attention, scathing reviews against films that are received well in popular culture or in their intended target demos are a quick ticket to exposure all over the web.

  14. It made sense, mostly. There's nothing to suggest that these critics didn't have open minds prior to watching the film, though. (Some might not have, but we can't prove that.) They might be "old school" minded (when video games were just for kids) or film snobs who think every movie must be an accessible work of art. Or they may simply not have "gotten it" and perhaps felt frustrated when the audience did.

    Now, I love "artsy" and "accessible" films as much as the next guy. But not every film is, or should be, Citizen Kane. There are plenty of niches to fill with original and fun ideas. Cinema as high art works wonders when done right, by the right people. But cinema as escapism, as a fun way to forget about the insanity of our current world for a little bit and refresh our minds with laughter, works wonders when done right as well. And Edgar Wright is one of the few who do it right consistently.

  15. Roger Ebert is the only critic I trust. Why? Because he reviews a movie with a clear understanding that even though he may not like a film he reviews it in terms of an audience that might like it, and grades it on it's own power of expression.I remember back in the 80s he gave Predator a thumbs up, and Gene Siskel told Ebert he'd lost his ability to rationally critique a movie. Roger Ebert said:" It's summer time, and I enjoyed the film it's as simple as that."He can be a bit uppidy at times, but usually he is pretty reasonable since he does understand the craft of making a film.

  16. "if you don’t understand something, that doesn’t mean you have to make fun of it."

    The most obvious fallacy in defensive geek culture: Assuming that the mainstream doesn't "understand" something, and assuming that's the reason they don't like it.

    I "understand" the movie entirely. It's a film about a guy who has a woman taking a shortcut through her dreams. He meets her in real-life and takes a liking to her, to discover she has 7 evil exes he must defeat. He's played by Michael Cera. That's pretty much all there is to "understand". So don't try to play it off like you've got to be clever and a geek to 'get' the film. In fact, as you yourself quoted, many non-geeks like it too, so it's not about having to 'understand' it!

    But here's the main point of the audience-bashing reviews: They're not bashing real geeks. They're bashing the pretenders who cotton onto a fad, the hipsters who dress in the 'new, geeky style' just because they've seen Cera wearing it, and other Cera-fanatics who'll drop him as soon as there's another "geek personified". Come on, they're as bad as the Twilight fangirls, if not worse.

    I will happily bash any film that lazily casts Cera solely for the fact that he makes money based on his all-worshipping, fawning, idiotic audience who pose as geeks despite probably never playing WoW, having never assembled a computer, etc.

    And if you're comfy with those people, who bought their first pair of glasses (fake, plastic lenses) and first checked shirt three months ago, getting all the credit for all the work YOU'VE done in your life in making geekdom acceptable, fine, but I'm not and neither are a lot of real geeks who DON'T wear skinny jeans, plimsolls and sweatbands on their wrists.

  17. I'm a lifelong geek and I found Scott Pilgrim hollow, boring and just unintelligent.

    Just so you know, the characters aren't geeks anyway – they're hipster douchebags, and as a culture, they're boring as hell.

    • I agree with you. The film was tasteless. While watching, I felt like I was trapped inside the head of a lonely, teenaged, daydreamer. And by that, I'm referring to whoever was responsible for creating it.

      You're also right about the characters. They had just about as much depth as victims in a Friday the 13th sequel.

  18. Okay, I'm just going to say that I didn't get all the jokes, was the only one of my friends not laughing at parts and I still think it was the best movie I've seen in years.

  19. awesome adaptation of the comics (which were completely amazing). Edgar Wright did an amazing job in taking a 7 book series and cutting it down into a 114 minute movie.

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