There are certain pieces of work that just hit their niche perfectly. They speak to their audiences so clearly, provide such a clear picture of what they want to say, that it becomes eerie and they rise above mere fiction or even and become defining factors for generations that look back one them.
The Great Gatsby is that for the Roaring 20’s, On The Road did it for the beat generation, Wall Street was the one that did it for the 80’s.
For Millenials, for Generation Y, I really and truly believe that our piece of time capsule fiction, is going to be Scott Pilgrim.
I don’t just mean the brilliantly underrated film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, although I love it very much. I mean the entire graphic novel series. (I always want to call them comics, but they aren’t really, they’re somewhere in between traditional English language comics and Japanese Manga…) Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Scott Pilgrim and The Infinite Sadness, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe, and Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour all by Brian Lee O’Malley tell a story unique to this generation.
Why do I think that it’s really going to be Scott and his friends that define our generation? They’re are a couple of reasons.
Like any story that employs any kind of ensemble cast, I think that people see themselves in the characters. (I’m a Julie, who wishes she was Kim, which is slightly less obscure than my friend Matt who when I mentioned this post stated that the character he related to the most was Michael Comeau, a minor character who’s main function is introducing new characters.) But everything in Scott Pilgrim’s world is painted in a thick coat of irony.
If there’s one thing that our generation has decided to let the world know, it’s that we love, love, love all things ironic. We’re the generation that made hate watching a thing, that patronized the NKOTB/BSB super boy band tour, we watched Rebecca Black’s “Friday”(at the time of this writing) 34,544,878 times on YouTube. So of course, a sort of manga series and then movie about a bunch of hipsters from Toronto who fight video game style battles and dead pan sarcastic comments at each other, is going to touch a nerve.
Then you have the hero himself, Scott Pilgrim. Scott is us. He’s unfocused, a little bit selfish, lost and working out his shit. He’s working it out a bit unconventionally (fighting epic battles with his girlfriend’s exes) to be sure, but still…He’s friends with his high school girlfriend, thinks his college girlfriend is the devil and lives with a slutty gay dude. He loves Tex-Mex food, and doesn’t drink (much, there are exceptions!) He’s hiding from adulthood by dating a 17 year old Chinese girl, until he meets Ramona Flowers.
Ramona is another element that is specifically Generation Y. She’s the ultimate Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a term coined to describe these girls, who are hipper, more fun and free spirited than everyone else and for some reason fall for schlubby everyman types. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a Millenial Fantasy. The men want to date one, and the women want to be one. Ramona roller blades, she lived in New York, she changes her hair “like every week and a half,” she calls her boyfriend “dude.” (I also call everyone “dude.”) She also has ninja powers, because this is Scott Pilgrim, not a Cameron Crowe movie.
Then there’s “the gang.” Scott’s high school girlfriend, Kim Pine, is sarcasm wrapped in a delightful tortilla of scorn, she’s the one who utters my favorite line of all time, “Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it.” Steven Stills, who is in the band Sex Bomb-om with Scott and Kim, he is obsessed with their band. Young Neil is Steven’s roommate, who is 20 to everyone else’s 23-25, hence his name (he reminds me of my friend Joanna…she is also younger than us.) Scott’s younger sister Stacey who is more competent than he is at everything, Steven’s sometimes girlfriend Julie who throws lots of parties and really hates Scott, Knives Chau the aforementioned 17 year old who is in love with Scott. And there is also Wallace Wells, Scott’s roommate and best friend (besides Kim) and his revolving door of boyfriends.
Like any gang they’re archetypes, but they’re specific to this generation. Scott and Kim reconnected, I like to imagine via social network, after University, when they both moved to Toronto. They bum around talking about Nintendo and Anime. Then there are the evil exes. Matthew Patel is the first, and he’s a Bollywood cliche, then there’s Lucas Lee, a professional skateboarder turned actor. After Lucas is Todd Ingram, a vegan psychic who is now dating Scott’s evil college ex Envy Adams (who turns out to not really be evil at all, just kind of a bitch), and the Kataynagi twins, Japanese party planners (DJ’s in the movie).
The final evil ex is Gideon Gordon Graves, who is identified as 31 years old, and is the mastermind of the league. This is where I think the whole metaphor for a generation thing comes full circle. Gideon is older, and is manipulating the millenials in the story to his needs and will. He preys on Ramona’s insecurities about herself, erases Scott’s memories of his years before Ramona and puts together a group of kids to fight each other for no reason other than his own opinion. Gideon is the established half a generation above us. The people who just missed Generation X classification, but don’t quite have the same worries as we in Gen Y do. The people who we idolized, wanted to be like and then exploited us. The people who still have their entry level jobs in this economy so we can’t get to them. The metaphor falls apart a little when the only way to overcome that is by Scott and Ramona cutting him up with a Katana and collecting the $70,000 (Canadian) in change that comes out.
All in all it’s the attitude that makes it feel like the ultimate millenial tale. The irony, but also the belief that we’ll get past it. This whole thing is just a phase, and we’re self aware enough as a generation to know that. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be at the party.
Even if it’s just so that we have something to complain about…