24 August 2010

They Don’t Teach Subspace in Canadian Schools

One aspect of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim books that I haven’t seen discussed enough is their Canadianness. Not just that the series was started and set in Toronto, and how most of its characters are Canadian, but how it depicts that city and the great nation surrounding it.

Of course, the American media wouldn’t take notice of that quality. And even the Canadian entertainment media skips that stuff mostly. But when Canadian comics journalist Chris Randle gets to publish the unprinted portions of his Toronto Globe & Mail interview with O’Malley on his blog, then it all comes out!

CR: The fact that Gideon opens up his sinister, decadent lair, his Legend of Zelda boss lair, at—

BLO’M: At this homeless shelter.

CR: Yeah, the corner with all the junkies and homeless people at Queen & Bathurst! It plays into all those debates about gentrification, and…

BLO’M: Yeah, totally. And Gideon is, you know, this American guy coming to town and making his own luxury bullshit…
That combination of awe and resentment toward America surfaces in volume 1 when Ramona Flowers brings Scott his Amazon.ca package. He asks how she was in his dream.

Ramona mentions the subspace highway through Scott’s head. “Is this something they don’t teach in Canadian schools?” she asks. “You guys probably just don’t know about them in Canada. I was wondering why they were always so empty up here.”

To which Scott can only reply, “So…um, I guess you’re American?”

Because who else would have such a casual attitude toward awesome power and other people’s space? Roller-skating through Scott’s dreams isn’t just a metaphor for a boy becoming infatuated with a girl. At that moment it also becomes a synedoche for how Canada views its southern neighbor.

But there’s hope for Ramona yet. In volume 6, she’s disappeared. Everyone assumes she’s gone back to Gideon (i.e., America). But at the end she reveals ***yeah, yeah, SPOILER*** that she went to her dad’s on a sort of “wilderness sabbatical”—just as Wallace and Kim told Scott to do. In other words, she’s become a little more Canadian.

TOMORROW: Toronto, city of myth.

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