Sunday, June 6, 2010

Scott Pilgrim: Is Ramona Flowers Evil?

(Re: Spoilers. Scott Pilgrim Volume 1 was released in July, 2004. So since you've had six fucking years to read these books I'm not going to worry about spoilers. Either you've read the series and so none of this will be spoiler, or you have not read the series in the 6 years it has been available, and so do not care.)

So, with Scott Pilgrim Volume 6 set to release on July 20th and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World set to release on August 13th I have been thinking about the series quite a bit. I have invested a wealth of time and emotion into this series, its characters, and come to self-identify with Scott's relationship plight to a, more likely than not, unhealthy degree. While I have been thinking about the possible endings to the series, what may happen, I've been stuck trying to answer a question which has been bugging the shit out of me since Book 4.

Is Ramona Flowers evil?

Throughout the entire series Ramona seems to be somewhat standoffish or isolated within her relationship with Scott. At the beginning of Book 4 Ramona says that she likes Scott because he is "pleasant and simple-minded". She asks Scott what he likes about her and Scott's reply is that Ramona is "mysterious". They have been together for 4 months, but he knows virtually nothing about her other than the number of evil exes she has. When Scott then asks how old she is, Ramona refuses to answer. Throughout the series Ramona keeps to herself. She goes out with Scott, spends time with Scott, sleeps with Scott, but never lets Scott know about herself or her past.

I initially thought that Ramona acted this way as a sort of coping mechanism. She has dated a lot of jerks and so put up a front of detachment to protect herself. But then as the series goes further along, it starts to seem like her attitude is not a mask; it is how she really is. She is not an emotionally caring person who protects herself but putting up a front; she really genuinely seems to just not give a shit about Scott.

Think about the situations between Scott and Ramona's exes. Ramona seems to be completely indifferent to Scott's plight. At the end of book one, when Ramona and Scott discuss the exes, Ramona says, "Um, I guess you have to fight my -- seven? -- evil ex-boy-friends. Um, if you want to, like, date me." When she says this it comes across as a statement of fact; she is not trying to get Scott to want to be with her but rather is simply letting him know that if he wants to be with her, if he wants to be the one to put forth the effort towards actualizing the relationship, then he will have to fight her exes. In book three, after Scott is tossed into a wall and lands in a pile of garbage, all Ramona says to him is "Are you well?"

We can explain that as a bit of comedy, a sort of feigned detachment between Ramona and Scott, but within the greater narrative it seems to be indicative of her character; Ramona is just sort of there watching what happens without any genuine concern for Scott's well-being or, really, the relationship itself.

It gets even more complicated when you start thinking about the evil-exes in and of themselves.

Many of the evil exes are not evil in themselves, but turn evil after Ramona leaves them / abandons them / cheats on them. So she doesn't date fundamentally evil people; she dates guys who she turns evil after she hurts them. Take, for example, the twins. She dated them both at the same time, unbeknownst to either, and after realizing that she cheated on them they became evil. Or consider the first evil ex, who turns evil after Ramona leaves him due to "pre-adolescent capriciousness". Or in Volume 2, when Lucas Lee says to Scott, "There's a lot of things that Ramona doesn't mention, Pilgrim. She likes to act like she's little miss perfect, but the truth is...she cheated on me."

It seems to be the case, throughout the entirety of the narrative, that the backstories to Ramona's exes place the origin for their being evil on Ramona's actions. The exes become evil after Ramona hurts them.

So, right now we have Ramona's indifference to Scott's well-being and their relationship through the series. We have Ramona's exes becoming evil after they date Ramona. And now we need to look at the entirety of Ramona in book five.

First off, the twins in book five join the League of Evil Exes because Ramona cheated on them with one another, played them against one another. So there is the whole "Ramona turned them evil" theme again. And we have Ramona's reaction to Scott having to fight the exes. Where previously she would attend the fights, now she stands in the general proximity of the fight and asks other people how Scott is doing, never talking to Scott himself. We get Ramona kicking Scott out of the apartment due to his losing his keys. We get the scene where Scott and Ramona are in bed in which Ramona calls Scott a liar and a cheat, which is just the pot and the fucking kettle. We get Ramona refusing to explain the lines that come out of her head when she is stressed, or someone mentions Gideon. We get the unmailed letter to Gideon Scott finds in the drawer.

And, finally, we get Ramona cutting her hair and disappearing, leaving Scott completely alone without any explanation of what happened.

In book 5 Ramona and Scott are living together, so they have spatial closeness, but she is generally more standoffish and isolated from Scott than in the previous four books. While one might expect that with the passage of time the two would grow closer, we actually find them to be further apart with Ramona far more apt to leave Scott on his own while she seeks out either the company of others, or is secluded, by herself.

It does not seem to be the case, if we read through the whole series so far, that Ramona is an emotionally healthy person enacting a genuine relationship with Scott. It seems to be the case that, for Ramona, Scott is just the guy with whom she happens to be at the time as she navigates a life full of obstacles (evil exes) who she, herself, created due to her actions. The whole series seems to point to the Ramona from book 4, when Scott happens into Ramona's mind via subspace, wherein Ramona is kneeling at Gideon's side smiling and blissful with Gideon's arm around her, as being the true Ramona. The one and only time we get a glimpse into Ramona's mind the Ramona we see is evil. Ramona Flowers is not a nice girl to whom bad things happen, but rather is an evil harlot who continually harms those who try to get close to her.

Which really puts a bizarre spin on the whole series. Think about what this says about the League of Evil Exes.

By my read it is not as if the League of Evil Exes is trying to prevent Scott from getting to Ramona due to their liking Ramona. Rather, the League exists as a definitive feature of who Ramona is. So, Scott is continually battling against persons who stand as indications of Ramona's true self; what Ramona's relationships actually are. Scott is trying to get to be with a girl who cheats on and abandons those with whom she had relationships. Scott is continually presented with proof of Ramona's past wherein she harms, cheats, and leaves exes, so turning them evil, and yet Scott continues to fight to be with her.

Given this read, I am very concerned for how book six will end. Either we are going to get some "Bitchiness ex Machina" ending which somehow explains that Ramona was good all along, that the evil exes were evil in themselves, that Ramona really super did care about Scott despite everything she does to him. Or book 6 is going to end with Scott losing his fight with Gideon, or winning only to have Ramona leave, or Scott becoming the 8th evil Ex.

As it stands now, though? I think it pretty damn obvious that Ramona Flowers is evil, that she effectively created the League of Evil Exes by her own actions. And that Scott is a nice, well-intentioned guy giving the benefit of the doubt to someone who demonstrably does not deserve it.

14 comments:

Roscoe said...

I really don't fully know how to respond to this.. I want to tell you you're wrong..

but the basic set up is sound.

On the other hand, Scott creates the same wreckage in his path. Knives, Kim, Envy.

I.. hrmn.

Evil isn't what you want.

Andrew said...

Note: I have not read the series.

"Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor - never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten."

And

“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”

- Elie Wiesel


I think the creator is making a point perhaps around these quotes.
They are what popped into my head when i read your post. thoughts?

Roscoe said...

I dunno if the Wiesel stuff really appplies here..

partially, because I'm not sure evil, and for that matter, indifference, really convey what J's looking to say.

If Ramona is evil, then she's a mirror held up to Scott. And it's hard to say Scott's evil, or, by the end of it, indifferent.

I'm trying hard to think of a relationship shown in the books that wouldn't fit right in w/ J's stated read on Ramona and Pilgrim's, actually.

_J_ said...

I tend to take Elie Wiesel quotes with a grain of salt. He's not defining or arguing from an uninvolved, objective position; he's arguing from "I was in a concentration camp". And while that has merits and is a worthwhile perspective to consider, I do not think we have to define our world from within the walls of Auschwitz.

I do not think Ramona is indifferent to Scott in the way Wiesel understance indifference. I think Ramona's indifference, in how I understand indifferences, comes in her not being the active force in the relationship. She makes herself available to Scott, but never puts forth the gumption in the relationship to make things work. Scott is asking Ramona out, Scott is fighting Ramona's exes for the sake of being with her, Scott is telling Ramona he loves her, Scott is asking Ramona to move in together, Scott is, Scott is, Scott is.

If we had to break down the relationship into actor / acted upon Scott would be the actor, the one who puts forth effort, and Ramona is the one towards whom actions are directed.

And that, for me, is indifference; when Ramona is not actively trying to actualize the relationship she's indifferent to it, she is letting it happen or not happen based upon the actions of Scott.

I tend to think that there is a link between evil and indifference; they are not the same thing, but they can compliment one another and foster one another.

Take, for example, Scott fighting an evil ex and Ramona being indifferent to the fight. Her indifference, in that situation, results in evil, results in her not helping Scott or harming Scott, if we want to take "not helping" as "harming" in some situations.

Again, we do not have the sixth book, wherein I assume all this will be explained. But it is entirely possible that one of the themes of this series, if it is not just "Ramona is evil" could be the role different genders have in relationships; the guy has to fight to be with the girl while the girl is just inertly there.

Maybe.

_J_ said...

"If Ramona is evil, then she's a mirror held up to Scott. And it's hard to say Scott's evil, or, by the end of it, indifferent."

I can kind of understand the mirroring thing. Like we talked about on IM, Scott has "evil exes" in the form of Knives or Envy Adams. But Kim Pine is not evil, Lisa Miller is not evil.

Also, Scott's exes are not formalized into an organization, Ramona does not have to fight them in the sense that Scott has to fight Ramona's exes. Sure, Knives attacks Ramona in the mall that one time, and Knives tells Ramona that Scott dated them both. But that is more vigilante evil-ex than formalized evil-ex.

Thought, if we want to go that route, it opens up a comparison between Knives' motivation and the motivations of Ramona's exes; in both cases the persons were not evil until they were screwed over by someone else. Which then sets up a question of "what is the originary source of evil in the Scott Pilgrim universe?" and maybe that's the big reveal at the end.


I think we can compare Scott and Ramona and find that they have similar features (they are both mammals, for example). But I do not think they are exact copies with opposing genetalia.



One of the problems with this comparison is that we do not have book 6, and there are plenty of things in the series that could go either way depending upon what happens in book 6. For example, there is "Evil Scott" who appears in book 4 from whom Scott runs. What the fuck is up with that? No idea. And Ramona's cat is named Gideon, but Gideon is the name of the final evil ex. So is the cat Gideon Gideon, or just a cat with that name? BUt why would Ramona name a cat after the ultimate evil ex? That's fucking weird.

Roscoe said...

I'm calling you on reader-identification, here.

You're totally pro-Scott, as the work wants you to be, but because of that bias, you're reading Ramona harsher than ought to be.

And you're totally dismissing just how bad Knives gets treated.

Granted, Knives is young.. but that's the whole point of Knives' dad fighting, then sorta bowing out.

The whole problem here is the exes are NAMED EVIL. By everyone, but it's a Magneto problem. No one NAMES themselves Evil, not really.

well.. Knievel, but he spelled it differently. You're buying into the exes as antagonists, as you should, and transfering the Evil bit onto Ramona, which makes sense. You've logically walked it back. But the problem is the Evil attached them them is negliable.

It's 8-Bit Manual Blurb evil. The evil of Metro City gangs and Dragon Ninjas kidnapping the President's Daughter. Evil because they oppose the Hero.

_J_ said...

Can we not make a quantitative distinction between Ramona's seven evil exes and Scotts having Knives and Envy?

I don't even think Envy counts as an evil ex with regard to Scott as Ramona's evil exes count as evil, by the way. Envy was evil in and of herself indepenent of Scott's actions, she cheated on him; Scott did not cheat on her whereas Ramona turned her exes evil via her actions.

I'll grant that Scott was not the best guy in the world to Knives. But it's not the same sort of thing as what Ramona did to all of her exes.

"The whole problem here is the exes are NAMED EVIL. By everyone, but it's a Magneto problem. No one NAMES themselves Evil, not really."

I'll have to check, but I'm pretty sure the League of Evil Exes refers to itself as the League of Evil Exes.

Roscoe said...

Of course they name themselves such. So does Magneto.

But it's a pantomime. It doesn't hold up in honest characterization.

They are the League of Evil Exes, because that suggests organization, suggests stages, and righteousness, and all the things Player One has to overcome.

Lemme put it another way - The KKK don't call themselves evil, nor does BP, or Halliburton, or whomever you like.

Sure, they call themselves evil.. w/ a Capital E, even, but they don't even go in for it as over the top irony Evil, like.. say.. Emperor Zombie. They don't seem so much to be evil, as they do... folks w/ a job they're invested in.

You can transfer evil as the word you want to define Ramona's actions, but her EX's? They don't fall under that definition. And they actually claim the word, so.. perhaps Evil isn't what you want.

_J_ said...

What word would you suggest?

Anonymous said...

*******Spoiler: Ramona IS GIDEON! She is the final ex. After all, we are our own devil, right Mr. Wilde?****** - M

subilial said...

You're darn right she's evil.
Dante believed (because Christ hinted at it) that hypocrites deserve one of the worst levels of hell.

All religion aside, it's one of the worst character traits possible (right next to murderous tendencies) and she's a the biggest hypocrite (fictional or otherwise) in the history of the world. She gets mad at Scott for "cheating" on her, even if it was unintentional, when she has done the same.

Also she won't listen to Scott ever, when he finds Lisa, Ramona thinks he has a thing for her and wont let him explain, then she has her evil ex girlfriend over to make out because she assumes it isn't even half as bad as what Scott and Lisa did. on top of that, she lies saying that she was going through a phase when she liked girls, though she's obviously bi.

She is a stupid, evil whore that deserves to die (but doesn't, spoilers...)

Alice Fish said...

Totally agree.

ManOnAJourney said...

I just stumbled upon this but did anyone else notice that Romana cheated on scott in book 4 when she claimed to make out with roxie a little. She justified her actions by claiming scott might of done the same with lisa.

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