Friday, July 9, 2010

Evil Exes?

Less than two weeks remain until the release of the final book, and the movie premieres three and a half weeks after that; so, I've been thinking a lot about Scott Pilgrim. To those unfamiliar with Bryan Lee O'Malley's tale of life, love, and video games, I feel so sorry for you. These five, soon to be six, digest format tomes prove to be the best primer for the post-graduate lifestyle. The bare bones of the plot follows that of the late 80s to early 90s 16-bit video games: the hero has to fight a series of progressively more difficult foes before reaching his or her goal. Scott Pilgrim, the hero, meets Ramona, his goal, but can only date her if he defeats her past relationships, the aforementioned series of foes.
There is a lot to be said, and probably has been, about the main characters, the nature of romance and friendship, and influence of pop culture on youth in reference to the series. However, I keep coming back to the League of Evil Ex-Boyfriends. I have no problem believing that these people would take turns trying to rub out their ex's current boyfriend; I get hung up on the fact that they call themselves "evil." I think it's common knowledge that the majority of people in the wrong believe that they are on the path of the righteous. It's been my experience that there are two main reasons for someone to refer to themselves as being evil: either they are ashamed or they get off on doing wrong. In my eyes it seems that the sum of guilt and pleasure determines each ex's level of evil.

I'm going to try and spoil sparingly, but I also have to back up what I say with the books. So, yes, this is a SPOILER WARNING.

My hypothesis of Lucas Lee being the least evil ex is easily proven by his fight with Scott. After hurling our hero into a tower, Lee calls for a timeout in order to offer Scott some juice and baby carrots. They then sit down and start talking about Lee's acting career and relationship with Ramona. He tells of his heartbreak and tries to talk Scott into getting out of this situation before he gets hurt. He gives the Scott and the reader the two reasons why he's sided with the antagonists, "They almost didn't let me join the league. But I knew they had to. I'm an important figure in Ramona's past. Plus I'm super tough and cool." Pairing this statement with what little regard Ramona has for him, it becomes clear that Lucas Lee is beating up suitors in order to receive a sense of validation; and, yeah, the League let him join because the dude is a tank. The only way that I would classify Lee as evil would be based on 1 Timothy 6:10, because, after all, he is still a sellout.

Some. Pleasure: Little. Evil Level: -1. Designation: Probably an Okay Guy.

I'll be the first to admit that the twins, Kyle and Ken Katayanagi, really don't come off as nice guys. They're manipulative, prone to speaking with hidden meaning, use proxies to avoid a direct assault, and cheat. Yet they're not obsessed with destroying Scott or Ramona. Like Lucas, Ken and Kyle warn Scott of his girlfriend's past infidelities. Unlike Lucas, they also reach out to Ramona. It may be a ploy to drive the young lovers apart, but the twins do remind her that she came here to get away from the world and that the world is still out there waiting. The Katayanagis seem to be enjoying themselves while tormenting Scott and Ramona, but it reeks of bitterness more than sadism. They're both trying to make up for their past betrayals, for which they blame Ramona, by a.) working together as good brothers should, and b.) getting Scott away from the woman that hurt them.
Guilt: Some. Pleasure: Some. Evil Level: 0. Designation: Lovers Scorned.

Roxy Richter hates Scott Pilgrim. She also hates Ramona, Gideon, and herself. Roxy's a very angry girl. She attacks Scott half-heatedly, finding more pleasure in messing with him first rather than finishing him off from the get-go. When Mr. Chau walks into the room, she immediately assumes he was sent to be her backup, and proceeds to engage him in martial combat. She still cares for Ramona, evidenced by Roxy's trying to keep her from being hurt by Scott; also, Ramona alludes to making out with her during her stay. Even this bond is overwritten by her own rage when Ramona chooses to defend Scott instead of leave him. Her anger makes her a less effective warrior, causing her to have low self-esteem, which in turn makes her angry. She's sort of out of control.
Guilt: Little. Pleasure: Some. Evil Level: 1. Designation: Imbalanced.

In Marvel's Earth X series, Ross and Krueger explain the logic behind Magneto's choice to name his group The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. According to them, by calling himself evil, Magneto was locking his opposite, Professor X, into being good, and thus limiting Xavier's possible actions; the character of Todd Ingram reminded me of this. Todd grew up pushed to succeed by a father who held no faith in him. He worked hard and graduated top of his class. Now it's his time. He's going to do whatever he wants. Todd sleeps around regardless of his committed relationships, he breaks the rules of he and Scott's fight, and he eats whatever he wants whether it contains animal protein or not. And yet this Hedonistic lifestyle has yet to deliver the contentment for which he searches. He doesn't set out to hurt people, they just get caught in his telekinetic wake. Todd is evil only because of his absolute refusal to be good.
Guilt: None. Pleasure: Little. Evil Level: 1. Designation: Evil by Default.

Some friends and I disagree on this next point. As stated earlier, each boss offers greater difficulty than the last; this does not mean that each ex is more evil than the last. Matthew Patel is the first, and therefore least deadliest, opponent Scott must face, yet he is far from the least wicked. Of all the League, Patel's skill set is the only one that has overtly devilish tones(he summons fiery, demonic hotties to do his bidding). Furthermore, he's enthusiastic about what he's doing. He sends out letters announcing his presence and intentions, dresses up for the occasion ("Pirates are in this year"), and makes a grand entrance. He operates under the idea that malevolence is en vogue. If somebody enjoys acting evil, how long before they enjoy evil acts?
Guilt: None. Pleasure: Some. Evil Level: 2. Designation: Poser, yet Dangerous.

Gideon may very well be unapologetically evil. He appears to be Ramona's most recent ex and leader of the League. So far, he's only been directly involved in the story on two occasions. The third book's upbeat ending is taken down a peg by a mysterious stranger moving among the crowd; only Scott catches a glimpse of him. He does nothing overtly sinister, but the reader knows that his presence foreshadows trouble. Gideon's next appearance is in voice alone. He telephones Scott in order to check on how he's handling a hard time. He then ends the conversation with the question, "When would it be convenient for you to die?" I don't know much about Gideon Gordon Graves, but I'm laying money on him being able to differentiate between right and wrong, if only to aid in choosing wrong whenever possible: a true sociopath.
Guilt: None. Pleasure: Lots. Evil Level: 3. Designation: Absolute Evil.

By the way, I grabbed the above image from Comics Alliance; I hope they don't mind.