Monday, December 26, 2011

Scott Pilgrim series Discussion Questions

Scott Pilgrim is a graphic novel series that was recommended to me by a fellow friend. At first I was creeped out by the similarities between my life and his (bass player, video game nerd, same age!?!?!) but then quickly realized along with a few million others just how charming the series is. Each of the six volumes of Scott Pilgrim are peppered with clever music and video game references and surprisingly deep characterization. Here are some not-very-spoilery questions for the series.

1. Do you think the Scott Pilgrim series has crossover appeal between manga fans and graphic novel fans?

Most definitely. It is practically a gateway into the manga form. It is easy to pick up, Americanized, and short.

2. For those who have seen Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (the film), compare the relationship between Scott and Ramona in the film versus the graphic novel.

My criticism with the film was that the romance between Scott and Ramona felt sudden and forced. The graphic novels allow more time and space to develop that relationship.

3. Books and graphic novel series' such as Ernest Cline's Ready Player One and Scott Pilgrim have constructed simple stories around a bevy of pop culture references with great success. Are they simply catering to nerds for profit or do these references add depth?

I loved Ready Player One even as a guy who is only nominally familiar with half of the pop culture references made. I think Scott Pilgrim is universally enjoyable and if you get the references that's just icing on the cake. I don't think the references are overbearing or catering too much to nerds, I think it is just a symptom of nerdy thirty something authors.

4. How does Scott's demeanor change throughout the series? What did he learn?

Scott's character is clueless in all senses of the word. He is self-centered and seems unaware that he has hurt Kim and later, Knives. Throughout the series, he must be selfless and help Ramona with her problems to save the world and ultimately get the girl. These events help Scott focus on something other than himself and learn that other people matter. Hence his desire to go through the door with Ramona at the end of the series and tackle whatever lies ahead with her.

5. What is the appeal of Ramona Flowers? Is she just a Manic Pixie Dream Girl? (MPDG defined: "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures." Example: Natalie Portman in Garden State, Zooey Deschanel in nearly everything, Ramona Flowers?)

I'm not sure what Ramona's appeal is. She seems distant and unpleasant. I guess she is kind of hot. Ramona is most definitely the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype, but O'Malley allows her character to grow a bit. I can see why there were Team Kim vs. Team Ramona campaigners while the books were being released, though.

6. What does Kim Pine's role become in the series? What does she do for Scott?

Kim Pine is the catalyst to Scott's character development. She is the one who was hurt by him in the past and when Scott goes to save/visit her, that serves as the push his character needed to break away from his self-centeredness.

7. Brian Lee O'Malley includes a playlist of music that inspired him for each volume. Does knowing the author's inspiration add any personal feeling or depth to the series?

I think knowing O'Malley's muses helps the series along most definitely, especially since music plays an important role in the story. Similar to the previous question about pop culture references, this music knowledge gives the reader a deeper understanding of the author's influences.

8. Subspace goes largely unexplained through the series. Did you simply accept what it did or did this bother you? Why can Ramona access these doors?

I've been reading a lot of books lately that eschew explanations of supernatural occurrences. In this case as well, I don't think a science fiction-y explanation of subspace would have done anything for the story. Scott Pilgrim is above all else, a story focused on characters. The ambiguity in Ramona's origins and powers serves as the most intriguing unsolved mystery of the series (adding to the what happens after the end mystery)

9. What was the driving narrative force of the series? What kept you reading?

Characters, Scott's character arc most definitely. Surprisingly, the fights simply drove the story along but weren't the most compelling part.

10. What is the importance (or non-importance) of changing hairstyles?

It shows the superficiality of Scott's previous girlfriend Natalie/Envy. If she cares that much about Scott's hairstyle, she's probably not a good person to be with. Not sure on Ramona's changing hairstyles, perhaps that she's never solidified in once place and that she isn't happy with being nailed down to one style/thing.

11. How did the Scott Pilgrim film adaptation differ from other comic to film adaptations?

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World felt more like a nod to the graphic novel series rather than a panel by panel adaptation a la Sin City. The humor and feel of the graphic novels were captured quite well.

12. Do you think Scott and Ramona were meant to be together? Did they stay together?

My book club simply replied, "It doesn't matter," which bugged me. I don't think Scott and Ramona's relationship would last much past the end of the book, but the important lesson is that they both learned to make another person in their lives the center if only for a bit.

Non-cohesive thoughts:

-You know what was cool? The actual hours and names of various locations. Also, that awesome Shepherd's Pie recipe.

-Brian O'Malley's significant other is Hope Larson, author of the graphic novel Mercury

-Edgar Wright, the director of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World also directed with Shaun of the Dead and Spaced.

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