Saturday, April 18, 2009

8 quick thoughts on Scott Pilgrim

  1. The latest volume, "...vs. The Universe", was an improvement over the previous one. (Which I kinda disliked.) Scott was less grating, perhaps because this issue was less emo in its pretentions and so I was less critical of the preposterousness of his relationship with Ramona. But also because...
  2. This issue made it clear that, whether intentionally or because O'Malley - like me - is more interested in her, Ramona has become the central character in (what is ostensibly) Scott's story. At this point, there is little that is novel, provocative, or mysterious about Scott - and, luckily, Ramona supplies those things to an excess. Tellingly, she's also been featured on more covers than the title character himself. When she disappears, I want to know why and what will happen next. To her. Not to Scott, so much. Which is unfortunate, because the book closes in following the wrong character.
  3. The film adaptation by Edgar Wright has been shooting here in Toronto for a short while, now, and Wright just posted a vlog of the first day of shooting. Some personal connections: One of the stand-ins visible in the first 15 seconds or so is a guy I took a grad class with a couple years ago. Which is not as weird as it seems, given that I know some of the real people that various characters in the series have been modeled on. (I also e-interviewed O'Malley, who once played in my friend's band, when the first book in the series came out. I don't typically advertise the results, though. It was a much... stranger exchange than I expected.)
  4. Clever casting, one: The series' mastermind and villain, Gideon, was first seen in shadow, then given a fuzzy cameo in the penultimate issue, and won't actually be revealed in full until the last one. Appropriately, then, the identity of the actor playing Gideon is officially secret. (But unofficially, we know that it's Jason Schwartzman. Which is a pretty cool choice.)
  5. Clever casting, two: Chris Evans and Brandon Routh are playing two of the evil exes that Scott must defeat. Given the series nominal status as a superhero series, of sorts, it's incredibly cool that they've cast guys who are most famous for playing superheroes. Only this time they're playing bad guys.
  6. Clever casting, three: And Ramona's female ex? She's being played by Mae Whitman - Ann from Arrested Development. So Michael Cera, as Scott, will be fighting George Michael Bluth's ex-girlfriend.
  7. Clever casting, four: I said it's 'nominally' a superhero series because it's actually something of a hybrid - it mixes and matches bits of superhero convention with copious video game references, teen drama more befitting an indy title (or hour-long TV serial), and a manga inspired visual style. It's bizarrely appropriate, then, that the very first evil ex is played by Satya Bhabha - son of Homi Bhabha, the post-colonial theorist who writes of, among other things, the political potential of hybridity.
  8. Clever casting, five?: I can't actually find anything on the two remaining exes, the twins. But I hope that they don't disappoint, either.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

QLC and the unending crisis of young adulthood(s)

I wrote a bunch of responses (not viewable outside Facebook, unfortunately) to Jen's blog about the Quarter-Life Crisis (QLC) phenomena and how acutely she feels it. Unfortunately, I think my tone sounded a lot more belittling than I intended. (Or, rather, it sounds belittling, and I didn't intend for it to sound belittling at all.) That said, I have, I think, some very legit problems with the logics of QLC, which are maybe easier to express if my text is detached from particular personal narratives of QLC.

The first problem is that the idea itself is hopelessly ambiguous, to the detriment of people who claim ownership of it. A pop article that Jen linked me to describes it as "[u]nrelenting indecision, isolation, confusion and anxiety about working, relationships and direction", which is so vague, varied, and multiple as to make confronting the problem, much less dealing with it, pretty much impossible. How can this possible be described as a phenomena - singular? It has all the specificity of your horoscope. And, it seems to me, provides an equally meaningful self-diagnosis.

The second is that it invokes a state of exception that is not actually exceptional. Young people in North America prior to World War II were similarly filled with anxiety and confusion and pined for a stable career and purpose; after World War II, the same demographic group - their kids - were dissaffected with lives that locked them into a singular purpose when adulthood commenced, an ironic effect of the stablity that their parents had wanted; the baby boomersacted on the dissatisfaction they inherited from their parents but struggled - and often failed - to break free of the roles they had learned from them; and their children have absorbed that anxiety and seem to be pining for that stable career and purpose. And following logically from that...

My third problem is that QLC is nostalgic for an era of securing and assuredness that doesn't deserve the affection. That security and purpose? That desire to, as the article put it, "know who [you] are"? That's exactly the limitation that your parents or grandparents either rejected or felt acutely on some level should be rejected. The complaint that you're indecisive because you can "be anyone [you] want"? That's exactly what they thought would solve their dilemma. So maybe they were wrong. But how does it follow that reinstating the conditions of their moment of crisis will solve this one?

And the last - and least obvious but most interesting, I think - is that it echoes other late-capitalist discourses of privileged self-victimization. Like the article says, these are typically "people in their mid-twenties to early thirties who are usually urban, middle class and well-educated" - people who have are more privileged than most and upset, in part, because they don't seem to go as far as they once did. And what's more, as Michael Kimmel - who is no stranger to discussions of the ways in which men situate themselves as victims - notes, this particular iteration of generational crisis is, in fact, an "anticipatory crisis". I'm inclined to agree - we're being prepped to be dissatisfied with being unsatisfied, trained to have a pathological need for some grand accomplishment. (And have it before 30!) We're victims of the fear that we'll become victims.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm somehow outside of this. I've felt alienated from my work at times; the first job I held after completing my MA was at a bookstore for minimum wage; my academic production has never been monetarily recognized or rewarded; I feel incredibly envious of the accomplishments that some of my friends can list off. Life is maddening. But this is not necessarily, and not always, a bad thing. And it's certainly not a new thing. It's simply a thing.

(I should also volunteer that I enjoy a certain extra privilege that complicates my relationship with QLC - I'm thrilled with my home-life, with my new baby, which makes things challenging on a daily-basis, makes them exhausting and anxiety-inducing but with the added benefit of being simultaneously comforting and secure. But it's not as if, by contrast, everyone who self-diagnoses themselves with QLC is without any interpersonal comforts, right?)