The larger blanket thesis of this series is that each of Ramona’s Evil Ex-Boyfriends holds up a mirror to Scott. As it is noted, he runs the risk of being an evil-ex waiting to happen. Ramona is, for the most part, willing to admit when she has made mistakes–she grows too, you know. This is more about how easily men can “re-write” relationships and put themselves in the role of “victim.” O’Malley hates that “she was crazy” mentality and entitlement shit. Quite the contrary, the works exposes the privilege that men in a heterosexual relationship have in the power they hold over how past relationships are narrated. The artist barely lets Scott off the hook (Scott is most comparable to Gideon [that’s another post]). To show that Ramona isn’t on trial but rather her former lovers, O’Malley designates them all as evil from the very beginning.
Originally, I had focused these entries on how each ex is representative of the seven deadly sins.
This interpretive approach is largely lazy, trite, perpetuates certain radical rhetoric, and is frequently overly simplistic. I do think that this fairly ubiquitous breakdown of the nature of evil is at work in both mediums that have portrayed Scott’s story, but, to the extent that this concept is employed, both the graphic novelist and director don’t use these concepts as simple allegory (not that allegorical mods are necessarily reductionist). The sins, instead of forming the characters in the league, are meant to be mirrors for Scott’s presumptions about why he feels himself the hero who deserves Ramona. While there are certain elements of the sins that do inform the league’s members, to see the major sins as epitomized by the exes results in simple readings instead of doing justice to the examination of the great degree of entitlement that is the core ideology behind the league.. O'Malley is more progressive: on the grandest level, he is taking apart heteronormative, white male forms of romantic a priori epistemology to show that relationships are built rather than preordained, and that there shouldn’t be one person in a romance whose subjectivity dominates the dynamic between partners. Scott’s experience points are made more realistic because they are moments of learning how to avoid self-absorption and discover how to meet your partner’s needs.
Probably should have put that in the preface post…
Back to Matthew…
Patel is representational of one type of reaction to change. With almost any change, there is the possibility of anger. Now I am not one to say that anger is only a manifestation of fear (…feel like I’m reiterating Donnie Darko a little). One can dislike change because they believe that a current situation is the best possible place to be (just one example). Patel’s character is one of the most vengeful (many of the others do seem to have gotten over Ramona, if only to turn their feelings of rejection and/or wounded pride into something else). Matthew is the most by-the-books member of the league, fully believing in its mission. He finds agency through this system, while other members have their own interests through which to establish a more independent sense of self. For the sins reading, Patel would have definitely been wrath. Scott fights wrath with wrath, but he does need to maintain a certain degree of anger to grow in this situation. However, wrath and anger are not necessarily interchangeable. Scott’s lesson, then, is knowing that a wrathful, reactionary mindset is not the only way to hold on to something you love, and he uses the lesson in the next confrontation.
Patel is also the expositional figure who establishes that the overlap between video game consciousness within the narrative. His fight is one of the most spectacular as a result, elucidating common features found in boss fights: he is able to use a variety of powers that aren’t available to the protagonists, his aesthetic is unique enough to establish him as a character who is different from the cast of heroes (”Pirates are in this year”), he summons minions to aid him in combat, etc. He is the most magical of the evil exes (literally has “mystical powers”). Patel’s fully realized boss-self is fantasy focused, and this element matched with his very early appearance alters the narrative. Until Patel, the video game references are associated with Scott’s subjectivity, particularly the brief summary boxes that appear the first time a character is introduced. These references aren’t as obviously game-oriented as Matthew’s role in the narrative. Patel confirms that Scott’s perspective is video game-based while also showing that the world O’Malley has created overlaps with gamer modalities. Patel’s magic nature also sets out the theme of genre switches that will occur with each given boss fight. Matthew’s mysticism is more of an amalgam of boss types. He is a composite of traits rather than adhering to a particular adversary identity. The battles to follow become decidedly more genre, and in many cases franchise, focused: Lucas Lee is a Skater battle, Todd Ingram is a musical showdown (as well as the more science fiction oriented psionic specialist [like a douchey and bratty Psycho Mantis]), Roxy is a sword battle who eventually becomes a strict samurai duelist, the Katayanagi twins are Dr. Wily-esque robot creators and are also modeled after boss battles featuring two adversaries teaming together, and Gideon is fucking Ganon and everything else (Dream sequence battler, Final Fantasy final boss, dark double of the hero, overlord, evil scientist, princess kidnapper, and master sword fighter).
It is difficult to present Matthew Patel on screen because he is the character who catalyzes the greatest shift in plot and narrative structure. Since everything irrevocably changes when Matthew appears, O’Malley saw it fit to make this protagonist/antagonist interaction unequivocal through the use of signs that would easily show readers that this character was a video game boss. Wright sticks VERY close to the source material…UNTIL the dance sequence. Wright gets the added fun of playing with film tropes through the visual medium, so while he makes Patel as distinct as he is in the books, the director pushes the audience further into a surreality, that would also be somewhat reader friendly to a non-gamer-literate viewer without destroying the original vision. Patel’s dance is a maniacal celebration of the dramatics shifts that his presence implies. We aren’t in a real world anymore: we’re in Canada! I phrased that poorly (apologies to Canadian readers): we’re in Scott Pilgrim’s Canada, where life and games blur together. If game logic is now applied to life, then the stakes are all the more higher. Mario can only guard himself against Bowser’s fireballs so much. Plus, there is a princess in danger. She isn’t a damsel in distress: she’s someone with agency, and you have to fight your own demons to reach her.