Rainbows and Rollerblades: The queer evolution of the Scott Pilgrim sequence

Content material Warning: Dialogue of queerphobia

Spoilers for Scott Pilgrim vs the World and Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

The yr was 2004 when the whirlwind journey of Scott Pilgrim started as a comic book sequence, catapulting readers into the “valuable little life” of its titular character: a 23-year-old bass guitarist who should degree up in life and love when he’s tasked with defeating the seven evil exes of his new girlfriend, Ramona Flowers. This story has since remodeled and developed, tailored as a live-action film, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and most lately as an anime, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. Cracking open the narrative vault and taking a wild trip down reminiscence lane, it’s clear to see that from 2004 to 2010 to 2023, every new iteration of Scott and Ramona’s epic story is a creative product of the period it was produced in. One space the place that is abundantly clear is the way in which queer characters, and queer id extra typically, are dealt with. This charming sequence serves as a reminder of the evolving nature of storytelling and inclusivity, highlighting progress in each characters and our understanding of narrative illustration over the previous twenty years.

As I cracked open the narrative vault for this text (cue dramatic entrance music), I couldn’t assist however discover that diving into the previous is like navigating a cosmic rollercoaster—daring, difficult, and with loop-de-loops via stereotypes and drained jokes that come out the opposite aspect into nuance value cheering for. Fasten your seatbelts and put together as we embark on a unprecedented journey via the rainbow-tinted realms of Scott Pilgrim‘s multiverse.

ROUND 1, FIGHT! – Scott Pilgrim, the comics

Cover of Scott Pilgrim volume 5 showing Ramona with her blue hair and purple and pink bag

The early 2000s, a time of flip telephones, dial-up web symphonies, and the beginning of MySpace profiles, noticed Bryan Lee O’Malley crafting the primary pages of the Scott Pilgrim comics—a cultural icon of its period. Amidst the Y2K transition, Scott Pilgrim grew to become a magnetic power subject, mixing ’90s grunge vibes with the neon glow of the rising digital age. O’Malley wove collectively online game aesthetics, music subcultures, and on a regular basis life right into a narrative quilt that screamed, “We’re the youth of the yr two thousand!”

But, these early comics had quirks—cringy sexist feedback, stereotypical sketches, and heteronormative vibes reflective of their time. Amidst these moments, nevertheless, the sequence rebelled by introducing some genuine queer characters, injecting much-needed illustration. For me, venturing again into the comics was much less disheartening than the movie, as characters progressed with out succumbing to drained tropes. The comics, flawed but endearing, maintained a bittersweet attraction. 

The primary and most evident instance of queer rep within the sequence is Wallace Wells, who’s actually launched as Scott’s “cool homosexual roommate” (and/or as a “drunk gay” relying on the comedian panel). Wallace, although at occasions dancing alongside to the “my homosexual buddy” stereotype, exuded vigorous power and is handled as a critical character slightly than a one-off joke. The truth is, he’s usually the voice of motive and (mockingly) the “straight man” to Scott’s dopey antics. If Scott is a quintessential slacker, Wallace has his life collectively. Whereas he’s not the protagonist, Wallace is certainly a beloved important character within the sequence, and O’Malley typically avoids lowering Wallace to his sexuality or making the truth that he’s homosexual the butt of the joke. 

Comic panel showing Wallace waving towards the camera. A box that says "Wallace Wells, drunk homosexual" points to him

That is helped by the truth that Wallace isn’t the one homosexual character within the sequence, as a number of others are casually included—together with Scott’s bandmate Steven Stills, who’s seen kissing his boyfriend within the last quantity. That is a part of a joke, however the precise punchline is that Scott is stunned to find Steven dates males as a result of Scott hasn’t been being attentive to his buddies’ lives. There’s additionally a scene at a celebration the place Scott catches Knives and Kim drunkenly kissing (Knives has joined within the revelry regardless of being underage), resulting in a dramatic shift within the seashore get together ambiance and the promise to “by no means converse of this once more.” 

Additionally of observe are Roxie (Evil Ex #4) and Ramona herself. Their relationship is launched in Quantity 4, following the Kim/Knives kissing session. Amidst informal banter, Scott spontaneously asks Ramona about her experiences with kissing one other lady, eliciting a shiver of pleasure from him. All of a sudden, Roxie makes a stealthy entrance, paying homage to a ninja, casting a mysterious shadow.

Scott’s subsequent encounter with Roxie entails an unintentional punch to her chest, a scene later mirrored within the movie. Roxie, with ninja-like finesse, engages in dialog with Scott earlier than disappearing in a puff of smoke, leaving him pondering her id. Later, Roxie and Ramona meet on the restaurant the place Scott works, revealing their historical past as a former couple. Ramona corrects the time period “evil ex-boyfriends” to “evil exes,” and Roxie is stunned that Scott was unaware of their previous relationship. Ramona doesn’t conceal her previous romance with one other girl—no less than, not any greater than she hides details about her previous together with her ex-boyfriends. If something, she appears nearer and extra informal with Roxie.

Coloured comic panels showing Ramona and Roxie squaring off, about to fight. Scott is hiding in Ramona's magic bag

Scott’s realization of Ramona’s previous sapphic relationship is humorously portrayed as a mind cracking open to disclose a tiny chick. Nonetheless, regardless of Scott being a goof about this, the battle with Roxie is simply as tense as another climactic showdown with a member of the League of Evil Exes. Roxie and Ramona face off within the subspace, exchanging verbal jabs in regards to the complexities of their previous relationship. Roxie, displaying a mixture of love and restraint, in the end concedes. 

The Roxie arc reaches its zenith with a face-off in the true world, pitting Scott towards Roxie with out Ramona’s involvement. Scott emerges victorious, but the encounter leaves him with a forewarning of the upcoming problem posed by the mysterious twins. The comedian, in its distinctive trend, delves past this tangible confrontation, presenting an in depth and multifaceted portrayal. Throughout a surreal dream sequence triggered by a disagreement with Ramona, Scott finds himself navigating the intricate recesses of her thoughts. The revelation of Roxie’s presence in Ramona’s home, suggesting an in a single day keep, provides a compelling layer of complexity to the narrative. This prevalence underscores the nuanced and multifaceted dynamic between Roxie and Ramona, a glimpse of the complexity usually inherent in queer relationships. 

The cool queerness within the comics was a delight—characters unfolded their sexualities with real ease, and even when there are a number of jokes (or shocked reactions from Scott) that appear cheesy at this time, there’s one thing particular in regards to the informal inclusion of queer characters in a chunk of 2000s style fiction like this. As we unearth the early days of Scott Pilgrim, it’s an opportunity to salute the sequence as a cool relic, reminding us that cultural attitudes, like mixtapes, are ever-evolving, and the hunt for extra inclusive and various narratives continues to rock on.

ROUND 2, FIGHT – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Ramona in the live-action movie

Within the cinematic whirlwind of Scott Pilgrim‘s multiverse, the movie adaptation provides a rollercoaster trip of hits and misses, with the cinematic journey stumbling throughout illustration hurdles, leaving a lingering sense of missed potential.

It’s not all dangerous information: Wallace, the effortlessly cool homosexual character, largely avoids stereotypes and remains to be one of many funniest and best voices within the forged. Transitioning from comics to cinema, Wallace’s coolness endures. Nevertheless, the film erases Steven Stills’ popping out, steering him on the straight and slim, and leaving Wallace remoted as the one homosexual character in the primary forged. Nonetheless, he fares method higher than the movie’s queer feminine characters. The film’s script introduces sexism, misogyny, and biphobia, creating an uneven dance of LGBTQ+ illustration. 

General, the issue is that the movie’s lowered runtime signifies that characters are squashed down into shallower variations of themselves. Ramona’s portrayal within the film is dulled down. Her characterization traces up with the Manic Pixie Dream Woman development of the period (one thing the comedian arguably tries to unpack), a development that treats neurodivergence like a glittery filter, romanticizing it as whimsical and charming and neglecting the true, nuanced experiences of audiences. Even Ramona’s colour palette—which, by the way in which, has been very bisexual flag-like since day one, together with her iconic pink-and-blue subspace bag and purple hair—is muted. Naturally, the depiction of her precise queerness doesn’t fare significantly better. 

Ramona about to bonk Roxy on the head with her massive battle hammer

Issues take a nosedive when the movie tackles Roxie, her dynamic with Ramona, and Ramona’s response to their reunion. The nuanced character I beloved within the comics will get squished right into a one-dimensional model on display. Ramona and Roxie spar—unleashing the total extent of their verbal and bodily artillery—however the movie skips their connection’s emotional intricacies and depth, turning Roxie right into a mere shadow of her comedian self, and in the end right into a joke. The film’s portrayal of Roxie additionally diminishes her autonomy, tying her motivations to Gideon and perpetuating a trope that weakens feminine characters.

The reveal that one of many evil exes is an ex-girlfriend is handled as an over-the-top shock. “You had an attractive part?” asks Scott, flabbergasted to study that his girlfriend “experimented” with courting ladies up to now. Ramona shrugs that she was “feeling a bit bi-curious.” Whereas, yeah, Roxie’s reply “I’m feeling a bit bi-furious!” is type of humorous, it doesn’t change the truth that the entire Roxie combat scene is a slapstick mess steeped in stereotypes about sapphic ladies. Roxie—who we’re in all probability meant to imagine is a lesbian—is hard, indignant, and man-hating, whereas Ramona is the cool girlfriend who simply “had a part” and is now extra thrilling to her straight boyfriend. Like every little thing else, the film’s pacing means their battle is over in only one scene, and Roxie is rapidly defeated (in an embarrassing method) so the story can transfer on. 

As this tumblr consumer places it, Roxie right here is “an unlucky sufferer of (being written in) the 2000s.” It’s just like the movie traded depth for brevity, leaving us with a watered-down illustration of various relationships.

ROUND 3, FIGHT – Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

Closeup of Ramona as she first appears in the anime Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, a glowing out-of-focus background behind her head

From the studio that introduced us the mind-bending Devilman Crybaby comes the sudden reimagining of Scott Pilgrim‘s epic story—not a brand new adaptation of the comics, however an alternate telling that expands the world of Scott Pilgrim into an explosive multi-media multiverse. That is thrilling for all types of causes, however for our functions right here, this new model treads some new floor and reframes the queer characters carried out soiled by the earlier adaptation. 

Ever questioned in regards to the untold story behind Ramona Flowers within the Scott Pilgrim film? A decade down the road, the anime swoops in like a colourful superhero, fixing the movie’s missteps with its vibrant storytelling and metalinguistic nods. It’s not only a visible love letter to the supply materials; it’s a rebellious remix that provides layers to the characters and themes I fell for. Not like the movie, this anime refuses to place Ramona in a clichéd field, steering away from the MPDG entice. Amidst these dynamic visuals and vibrant hues, the characters authentically resonate, enriching a story as queer as time.

Within the comics, Ramona already defied simplistic archetypes; nevertheless, it’s within the anime adaptation that the true symphony of her story unfolds, amplifying her narrative, and permitting it to blossom right into a extra nuanced and genuine portrayal. This narrative shift marks a departure from stereotypes, main her right into a metaphorical backyard of self-discovery and empowerment. This optimistic transformation celebrates energy and autonomy, difficult norms and giving life to a personality that transcends the confines of conventional roles.

Title card announcing that Roxie and Ramona are about to fight, in the style of a fighting game intro. Roxie looks intense and Ramona looks exhausted

Within the anime, not like the film, Roxie additionally shines via! To start with, she merely will get extra display time and is painted as extra of a badass—nearer to her comedian counterpart (who had turn out to be a profitable advantageous artist, truly) if not even harder. On the assembly of the members of the League of Evil Exes, she even provokes Gideon Graves, saying “Feels like anyone is scared,” which the opposite guys repeat to him when Mattew Patel challenges him to a winner-takes-all combat. The perfect line of Episode 2 comes from her, the superior Roxanne (Roxie) Richter, “I don’t want a league to get a woman.”

Episode 3 additionally provides her time to shine and focuses on her relationship with Ramona in a method the film would by no means even suppose to. Not solely do they get one of the crucial epic and imaginative combat scenes within the sequence, however in addition they get to speak about their previous romance and unpack it past “it was a part.” It’s a university confessional that spills the tea on Ramona and Roxie’s undercover dorm drama. Think about it: roommates turned lovers till Ramona pulls a Houdini with out even a “see ya later, roommate-gator,” leaving Roxie with nothing however a last glum look. The heartstrings get a exercise when Roxie spills her emotions, eager for Ramona to see her as greater than a blip on the roommate’s radar. Ramona, in a uncommon tearjerker, points an apology that hits more durable than a foul breakup playlist. Kudos to voice actors Winstead and Whitman for turning this tête-à-tête right into a heartbreaking masterpiece, making it the sequence’ MVP second.

Closeup of Roxie smiling happily, wrapped in a blanket

In a TV magic trick lasting lower than a sitcom snack break, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off flips an previous dangerous joke right into a glittering gem of queer storytelling. It’s a dive right into a doomed dorm dalliance, the place Ramona does a basic disappearing act and Roxie’s left with a damaged coronary heart. The episode lastly provides this duo the display time they deserve, unveiling Ramona’s knack for ghosting when love will get too actual. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off treats this connection just like the vital piece of backstory that it’s. No extra cinematic disregard—to not say biphobic strategy, as it may be perceived—right here; this relationship will get its second within the highlight, shining brighter than a Hollywood premiere. 

And to cap all of it off, Roxie shares a kiss with Kim, an interplay that doesn’t find yourself going wherever however is expressly a enjoyable time for each ladies. Undeterred, Roxie joyfully departs, her exit marked by whimsical vocalization—a melodic punctuation to their distinctive interplay and her closure with Ramona. Notably, Ramona doesn’t cut back Roxie to a bicurious experiment. Whereas Roxie and Kim’s second may need been informal experimentation for Kim, it was portrayed naturally with out problematic undertones. Within the anime, there’s closure and potential for a future friendship, presenting a extra inclusive and respectful perspective, and breaking away from dangerous stereotypes. As a bonus, the episode’s credit roll below the colourful tunes of Tegan and Sara; the usage of this iconic queer artist underscores the sequence’ dedication to inclusivity.

Todd haphazardly lifting his shirt to show off his tattoo of Wallace

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off not solely has extra queer content material however typically treats queerness with extra nuance. Kim and Knives share a candy second once they play music collectively. This iteration presents a reimagined and heartwarming counterpart to an analogous state of affairs within the comics, the place Kim and Knives interact in a drunken make-out session. Choosing a extra intentional and real bonding second, the anime captures the essence of their relationship, permitting it to unfold with authenticity. Within the multiverse of Scott Pilgrim, this scene stands as a shining gem, portraying Kim and Knives in a real and tender mild, showcasing important character growth and emotional resonance.

In the meantime, Evil Ex #3, Todd, has his personal bisexual awakening by the hands of, you guessed it, everybody’s favourite homosexual character, Wallace. However Wallace isn’t simply right here for sexual experimentation: within the anime, he will get to shine as his typical cool and humorous self, however he’s additionally allowed moments of tenderness and a shot at a romantic future. Time journey shenanigans enable the viewers to see an older and wiser Wallace settled down with a husband, somebody he has “sparks” with regardless of not initially believing these existed. Wallace isn’t wildly completely different within the anime, however O’Malley writing him a cheerful, queer future slightly than leaving him floating endlessly as Scott’s cool homosexual buddy is a stunning contact.

FINAL ROUND – Conclusions

Lineup of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off's main cast, including Ramona, Knives, Stephen Stills, Wallace Wells, and Kim. Scott is peeking out of Ramona's bag.

In Scott Pilgrim’s multiverse, it’s been a neon-soaked journey with cinematic missteps and anime attraction. Ramona, our kaleidoscopic heroine, defied tropes, blossoming into self-discovery. The anime’s cleverness shines, skillfully dodging tasteless jokes. My notes on this subject might fill Ramona’s bottomless subspace bag. 

This sequence has all the time been queer, it’s simply been dealt with in numerous methods, with earnest character writing that nonetheless mirrored the stereotypes and assumptions of the early 2000s, earlier than unfolding right into a extra cautious, nuanced narrative of sexual fluidity and love within the 2020s. Seeing these adjustments, and seeing characters like Roxie and Ramona get their dues, is deeply cathartic, and one of many many issues that makes Scott Pilgrim Takes Off so great, and can make sure that the franchise continues to endure as a pop cultural icon.

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