Lessons From Film: Social perception of women as objects should cease to permeate popular culture

Scott Pilgrim—portrayed by Michael Cera (pictured above)—is a geek without respect for women in Scott Pilgrim vs the World. While depicted as a hero, Scott fails to treat women with common decency (courtesy of Creative Commons).

If this isn’t already obvious, every person in the world should be treating women with respect. Over centuries of human existence, it has been normalized to regard women as their partners’ possessions. Even movies as recent as the widely popular 2010 film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World continue to subliminally support the objectification of women by society.

It’s evident from the title, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, that a male protagonist named Scott Pilgrim—portrayed by Michael Cera—will be fighting a battle to win some sort of prize. The problematic part of this premise is that Scott’s ‘prize’ takes the shape of the beautiful Ramona Flowers—Mary Elizabeth Winstead—to whom Scott is attracted because she’s so very “unlike other girls.” At the film’s outset, Ramona hasn’t spoken to Scott, so clearly he has projected a personality onto Ramona which he has decided to fall in love with.

Twenty-three-year-old Scott falls for Ramona while still dating 17-year-old Knives Chau—Ellen Wong—and he ends up dating both girls at the same time. Eventually, Scott is scolded for his behavior and breaks up with Knives without apology or regard for her feelings. In order to finally get Ramona all to himself, Scott must defeat each of her “seven evil exes,” because the movie portrays Ramona as an object to be won away from her previous partners.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World started as a series of graphic novels written by Bryan Lee O’Malley. The basic plot is consistent between the novels and the film. Scott is supposed to be a lovable underdog that no one expects to “get the girl,” and he ends up going from dorky to earning the “power of self-respect” and Ramona’s admiration by the end of the movie.

The film makes it entirely unclear how skinny-armed Scott is able to defeat Ramona’s “evil exes.” Despite his lousy personality and failure to put effort into any particular task, Scott more or less easily destroys Ramona’s past romantic partners.

It is important to acknowledge that there are also self-aware plot developments in the movie. Scott eventually realizes that he’s been neglecting his friends and must accept help from his band, Sex Bob-omb, and ex-girlfriend Knives if he wants to defeat the evilest of Ramona’s exes. This comes as welcome relief at the end of the film after Scott spends most of his time taking the people that love him for granted.

The issue with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is that the film is not self-aware when it comes to its objectification of women. Scott dates Knives and then breaks up with her cruelly for no real reason other than his desire to date Ramona. Knives is devastated and Scott couldn’t care less because he fails to register that Knives is a human being with human feelings.

When Scott eventually wins over Ramona, he displays his inability to regard her as anything other than an object. The first thing Scott says to Ramona after she agrees to date him is: “does that mean we can make out?” By the film’s end, it is suggested that Ramona’s character ends up with Scott for reasons that evade prospective romantic partners everywhere.

Women don’t deserve to be treated like prizes to win or trash to dispose of; Knives and Ramona deserve better than Scott. The lesson we should learn from this film is that we ought to be aware of our own actions and treatment of women. There is a difference between creating personality traits for a woman so that she fills out an ideal female mold and genuinely caring about that woman’s personality.