Thursday, August 26, 2010
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
"Don't look back or stop anywhere!" Gen. 19:17
As this movie begins, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) lives a comfortable, albeit routine, life in Toronto as a bassist with his garage band, Sex Bob-omb, as a boyfriend to a high school sweetheart named Knives (Ellen Wong), and as a roommate in a cramped studio apartment with his friend Wallace (Kieren Culkin) . It's not the perfect life, but it suffices.
All that monotony goes out the window when he suddenly meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a purple-haired beauty for whom Scott immediately falls head over heels. But veering off-course in an otherwise static life has its consequences.
The crux of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a journey that the titular character must take to disrupt his otherwise uneventful existence and date Ramona, who is surprisingly won over by his normalcy after one awkward date. In fact, it is Scott's kind and laid-back attitude that Ramona desperately needs in her love life - after the experience of seven intense ex's.
Like most relationships, the past quickly unveils itself - and Scott must literally face off against those ex's to win the heart of his newfound love. While the action sequences and drama are more akin to a video game, they point to a real situation that any relationship must face: a confrontation with the ghosts of one's past.
In our lives, we are constantly comparing the present reality with the past. Since we have no way of predicting the future, the past and the present are the only realities that we know - and they often go head to head. We compare this job to our last job, this relationship to past ones, this house to the last one we lived in, or this season to last season (though as a Cubs fan, I have learned long ago that comparing baseball seasons is just futile).
That is what Ramona is doing throughout the action of the film: she is wondering how Scott compares to Matthew, Chris, the Superman-esqe Todd, Roxy, Kyle & Ken, and Gideon. To her, Scott's gentle spirit wins out over the negativity and roughness of most of those from her past; however, the deep emotional ties to her most recent ex, Gideon, are a real competition for a love that is slowly building. Risky hope vs. tried-and-tested? This is what Ramona must decide.
Comparing ourselves and others to the events of the past can be dangerous. They evolve out of a feeling of fear and uncertainty, an unwillingness to take risks with the reality that God has given us right here and now.
When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, the people complained, "Would that we had died at the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!" (Ex. 16:3) They were comparing their past and present - and were more comfortable with an unhappy former life to an uncertain world before them. It brings to mind the phrase: "better the devil you know than the devil you don't."
Instead, God wants us to look ahead. The past is behind us and does no one any good to spend inordinate amounts of time comparing that with the experiences of the here-and-now.
In Genesis, the angels tell Lot and his wife to flee their past in Sodom and Gomorrah: "Don't look back or stop anywhere!" (Gen. 19:17), to which Lot's wife unfortunately disobeys and turns into a pillar of salt (19:26). And in the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples, "No one who set a hand to the plow and looks back to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).
How often do we keep looking back like Lot's wife? Or set our hand to the plow yet wonder what we left behind? While we cannot ignore the past, we can't live our lives constantly comparing ourselves, our relationships, or our situations with what we did before. Instead, we must trust.
We must trust that God has led us to where we need to be right here and right now. We must trust that the people God has brought into our lives are the people we need the most. We must trust that whatever ended in the past was meant to end, so that new life could grow from that loss or that conclusion.
Ramona kept looking back at those "seven evil ex's," but she had a wonderful new guy who was anything but evil right in front of her. What is it that is right in front of us that we fail to recognize, choosing instead to focus attention on what's behind? And how can we turn our heads around to what surrounds us today?
Scott Pilgrim didn't need to fight off the totality of Ramona's world. Neither should our friends, loved ones, or our own hearts have to fight the world we once knew, lest we go the way of Lot's wife and turn to an immobile pillar of salt. Let us pray that we have the strength to keep our eyes focused and our hearts grateful for the world we have right before us.