Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Or the Story of This Blog’s Namesake

If there’s one movie that had a direct influence on this blog, it’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. But not in the way you might think. Adrian vs. the World wasn’t intended to be a film or television corner. Once upon a time, this site started out as a blog about relationships.

My first post back in 2011 was about me being cheated on and the steps I took to recover from the breakup. (It’s SO cringe-y and sappy, but I keep it up as a record of my humble beginnings for your viewing pleasure 😬) I was just coming off an on-again, off-again relationship that lasted all through high school. I didn’t know the secret to long-lasting love, but I found a way to cope with the turmoil of breaking up… or thought I did.

Prior to the big breakup, I was set to leave for my first semester of college. This meant us going all in on a long-distance relationship, and I’m sure you know where this is going.

We had plans to live in an apartment after my first year where we’d pursue our dreams together despite cautions from family and friends well aware of our destructive pattern. “Fuck ‘em,” we said. It would be us against the world.

We barely survived one semester apart when we broke up again and broke up for good.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is not a movie you can describe in one word or one sentence. Frankly, it’s A LOT of movie; a visually epic “fight musical” and a wickedly fun hangout movie brimming with endlessly quotable, spaced-out humor. But Scott Pilgrim in a more serious sense deals with love and relationships, moreover, that transitory phase of adolescence going onto adulthood often heightened by a big breakup.

Scott Pilgrim, as the opening narration goes, is dating a high schooler. (A big yikes no matter the age gap.) Early on we register that poor Knives Chau is a crutch. Still limping from his breakup with Envy Adams, Scott’s not serious about the relationship and thus doomed to do to Knives what Envy did to him. This game of heartbreak dominoes is the most accurate representation of modern love I can think of. We’re so eager for moment-to-moment attachment, and this leaves us hopeless when it comes to long-term commitment.

Before I left for college, we met with friends to go see Scott Pilgrim. Watching as these characters engage in vicious cycles of heartbreak zeroed in on something between us. And, walking out of the theater, we were hyper-aware of what was bound to happen— what had been happening every couple of months except we couldn’t commit to the separation.

Then the night ended and we were together all the way to the airport, us foolishly believing we could make this work long-distance.

When I came home for Winter Break, we were hanging on by a thread – constantly fighting over the phone, barely video chatting – but we couldn’t break apart. We spent Christmas and New Year’s together, me convinced that last semester was a bump in the road and soon after we’d move in.

Spring semester came around and I sent her flowers on Valentine’s Day. That night I got a call from a guy screaming at me, asking why I was sending flowers to HIS girlfriend. Everything stopped.

I don’t know when he came into the picture. Friends of friends said they met a month after I left for college. Others said they were seeing each other across that same Winter Break. I know why he called, why it had to be him. He was doing the breakup for her.

It’s surreal and downright gutting to suddenly find yourself single again. One moment we were together, and then we weren’t in the space of a phone call. On Facebook we were still together in profile pictures and status updates, our social circles all part of the narrative through likes and comments. We were so well integrated in each other’s families; we knew each other’s quirks, our secrets and our flaws— or so I thought. And then we were strangers again.

There I was thousands of miles away, on the mainland and in college. I had every excuse to carry on and put my best foot forward, however I might stumble. But I couldn’t stop thinking about how the world just ended.

When we meet Scott he’s wholly detached from life. He may be at band practice, at home or at a party, but he’s never there mentally – a defense mechanism. Key to Scott’s whole deal is in backstory where ex Envy Adams slept with someone while her and Scott were together. The breakup caused him to retreat inward as a way to protect himself from future heartache, but he projects himself as being “over it” and moved on. He hasn’t. He’s merely moved onto Knives. And then he meets the actual girl of his dreams in Ramona.

Scott unfortunately is Knives’ first boyfriend. Knives experiences not only how spontaneous romance can be, but also its terseness. As quickly as their dates begin, it ends. For Scott, breaking up with Knives is a chore he has to get through to get with Ramona guilt-free. Knives, however, probably thought they were gonna go to the arcade or grab pizza, and now she’s stopped dead in her tracks.

When she’s pressed against the window like painful front-row seating to Scott’s new affair, it’s played to comedic effect, but it’s brutally true to the jealousy magnified by heartbreak. You feel special being with someone and holding hands as you stroll through town without a care in the world. And then you find out how easily replaceable you are.

When Knives texts Young Neil to get back at Scott, I can’t help but laugh while on the inside contorting with shame.

I was home again for the summer and dreaded running into my ex. I tried focusing on other things. I got a summer job as a stock boy. On weekends, I drank with cousins or reunited with friends. Then I did something for me by creating this blog. (Scott Pilgrim was my comfort movie that summer and, honestly, I didn’t want to think too hard. The space was more important than a clever name.) “Adrian vs. the World” began as an attempt to heal through writing – to process what happened, maybe find closure, then navigate a way forward from there.

But I kept going back to how I was misled and lied to for 6 months, how my ex wasted no time moving on from me *while* we were together. I chose to be petty. I put aside a half-written breakup post. I wanted to make her jealous somehow, to showboat how “well” I was doing without her.

One night at a party, I was reintroduced to a former crush who was also home for the break. We had stammered through an awkward double date in middle school (my cousin at the time was going out with her best friend) then headed off to different high schools and never saw each other again. Until that night.

We met in the same groups for lunches, dinners, hangouts at the beach – this time managing whole conversations – until the crowd dwindled down to just us. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t secretly hoping my ex was there to see.

She told me she had just ended a relationship with her college boyfriend. That should’ve been my clue then, but at the time I recognized a kindred spirit. She wanted to get away from it all, and I was right there with her.

Days off from stocking shelves, we dove into every lame tourist trap on the island. Beach and hotel pool hopping, hiking and stargazing; things my introverted-self rarely wants to do, ever, but which quickly became my summer. We were sightseeing an island that suddenly felt new the way your feelings for someone can make life feel new again.

It didn’t take long for me to blog about our adventures. I had managed to complete my breakup post, finally, where I opened up about getting cheated on. Now I was bragging about meeting someone new. I was almost too eager to cap each post with a picture of us underwater, or kissing against the backdrop of a sunbathed vista.

As summer came winding down, she told me she had been talking to her boyfriend in college again, suggesting they were “on a break” rather than broken up – two very different things. I knew what she was saying before she said it. Come Fall semester, they were getting back together.

Now, we never discussed labels or whether we were “official.” I suppose that’s what made it easy for us to slip into whatever this was— and easier to break off when the time came.

So it shouldn’t have hurt the way it did. But it hurt.

I deleted the travel posts.

Scott Pilgrim understands the role exes play in our perspectives. They’re not world-ending villains, they only feel like they are— a thing we exploit post-breakup to convince ourselves we’re the “hero.” That exaggeration in the film is everything because heroes never feel like they’re doing anything wrong. The same is true for Scott.

As it turns out, he and the band’s drummer Kim were also in a relationship and it’s implied that he dumped Kim for Envy. There’s obvious unresolved tension no matter how casually Scott brushes off Kim’s verbal jabs. We start to see Scott as someone who never paused to take inventory of himself, to recognize behavior that will end up hurting people including him regardless of how badly he’s been hurt in the past. “You of all people should know how sucky it is to get cheated on,” his sister Stacey reminds him. He only has himself to blame when he reaches the end of both his and Ramona’s league of exes at the Chaos Theater. He’s also Knives’ evil ex #1.

In 2012, I wrote “Loneliness Is Underrated,” to this day my most viewed post ever, but one I loathe for how small-minded and selfish I was. (I had a better mindset a year later, but there’s still an undertone of bitterness to the post that makes me facepalm.) I felt the need to assert myself as the good guy opposite my ex as the villain, allowing me to conveniently ignore my faults as a boyfriend. It was easier to be angry at an ex rather than deal with myself or my blind spots: my horrible codependency, how moody and melodramatic I was, my self-entitlement as the relationship went on. Getting cheated on did not make my personal failings okay. What I needed was introspection, and it took 2 breakups to get there.

A thing I hate about myself in relationships is that I get so swept away in dreams of a future that I forget what’s happening in front of me, which is just a nice way of saying I got lazy. Somewhere along the way, I stopped co-planning (or caring) about date nights. I stopped listening to her work and family grievances, stopped paying attention to her needs, stopped trying to surprise her— things she did for me unconditionally.

I left her as the sole emotional caretaker of our relationship, my one and only in the worst way imaginable. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that only I saw a future together. I might’ve been furious about being cheated on, but I stopped being her partner a long time ago.

If “Breaking Up and the Road to Recovery” was about a false sense of maturity (because I wasn’t over my ex, I was simply with someone else), then “Loneliness Is Underrated” was about the stubbornness of my immaturity a year later because I couldn’t let go of being cheated on, therefore I couldn’t acknowledge my own faults or learn from them. I used this blog as a way to project onto the universe that I had moved on. In truth, I didn’t know who I was at the end of a long relationship.

I was clamoring for an identity because being in a relationship had been my identity through high school. What I forgot was that I had reclaimed myself via “Adrian vs. the World.” It existed in the name and creation of this blog as a tool for therapy by way self-expression, only my intentions were in bad faith. I was writing to get back at an ex who clearly moved on with her life. I had to learn how to write and move on for my own damn self.

The first couple times I watched Scott Pilgrim, I believed resolutely in its fairy tale ending. Scott and Ramona are together, and together they start over. But I love Knives’ ending better and where we leave her. When she tells Scott he should be with Ramona, it ties a neat bow on the film’s love triangle as Scott can now truly get the girl guilt-free. But it also demonstrates Knives’ agency and interiority, Scott-free. Despite the heartache, the high school drama, and the jealousy, by some miracle Knives becomes a more hopeful romantic, not a hopeless one.

For Scott, moving on is literally “when one door closes, another one opens.” For Knives, moving on is an unknown path she charts on her own.

After my big breakup with my ex, I swore off relationships because clearly, I wasn’t good at it. Years later, I’m still figuring it out. My coping mechanisms, thankfully, aren’t as dramatic; I now form what I like to call “cocoons of sadness” after a breakup. (Bingeing Netflix, binge reading Rupi Kaur or R.H. Sin, binge drinking & eating, etc.) Though I find myself single once again, I’m certain that someday I’ll meet someone who will break up my breakup streak once and for all.

Until then, it’s me versus the world.

Constantine – The Anti-Comic Book Adaptation

I don’t know what it is about Keanu Reeves but I love revisiting his movies. Point Break, Speed, The Matrix, and absolutely Bill & Ted. (There will be no Bill & Ted slander on this site, thank you very much.) These films are all revered and adored in their own right, but if there’s one amongst his filmography that remains sorely underrated, it’s Constantine. Last weekend Reeves and director Francis Lawrence headed a Comic-Con home panel to celebrate the cult film’s 15-YEAR ANNIVERSARY. Take it from me, Constantine is one of the best superhero movies you’ve never seen, and it’s past time the film has gotten its due. Continue reading

The Brutal Thrill of John Wick

The teahouse shootout in Hard Boiled ruined me. Good guys, bad guys, guns, an unholy number of bullets, doves— and you don’t get any cooler than Chow Yun-fat duel-wielding handguns while sliding down the stairs. The shootout erupts in a teahouse of all places, the serenity of sipping tea interrupted by all-out violence where bad guys mow down innocent civilians, giving the good guys a free hunting license to unload carnage. The sheer overkill of Hard Boiled’s opening scene is something seldom achieved these days, which is what makes the increasingly over-the-top set pieces of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum such a welcome sight to see. Continue reading