‘Scott Pilgrim’ Creator Bryan Lee O’Malley Doesn’t Care If People Think The Main Character Is A Bad Guy

For nearly two decades, there have been contentious debates over whether the titular character in the Scott Pilgrim series is a good person – to the point where people have denounced or separated themselves from the source material and fandom. At times, the discourse was rampant on social media. But Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley could care less. 

“I don’t keep it all stored in my head or anything,” O’Malley told Decider over a Zoom call. “I don’t really remember what the reaction was a few years ago, I just see it every once in a while and I laugh, or I make an angry face or whatever, and just move on.”

The story follows Scott Pilgrim, a bass player for the garage band Sex Bob-Omb, as he meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers, and discovers that he must defeat her seven evil exes to continue pursuing her. The story spans six graphic novels and was adapted into a 2010 cult hit film.

In part, the aforementioned criticism is a prime example of the absence of media literacy and the extreme expectations held by those who seek Puritan values in their entertainment.

While Scott Pilgrim is undeniably the protagonist in both O’Malley’s series and Edgar Wright’s acclaimed adaptation, the character is never touted as a “good” person or someone with high moral standards, and the audience is constantly reminded of that through both the original books and the adaptation as he’s routinely taunted by his good friend and roommate Wallace, and his sister Stacey. The musician is even discouraged from pursuing his main love interest by his frenemy Julie Powers, due to his former romantic mishaps.

O’Malley finds the criticism “anthropologically interesting,” but refuses to let it consume his life. That said? When he began to bring the Scott Pilgrim universe to the small screen in the new Netflix anime, titled Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, the discourse did come to mind. 

Photo: Getty

“When I started thinking about Scott Pilgrim and the possibility of revisiting the story, all I’ve heard the last few years is, like, ‘Scott’s the worst character in his own story’ and ‘we hate Scott!’ I always find that so funny, because that was always the case,” O’Malley said, given that his graphic novel series predated the movie adaptation by nearly six years. “People didn’t start yelling about it until the last few years on social media. So yeah, when we talked about doing it in 2023, or whatever, I had to take that into account.”

In a 2020 Twitter thread that states “Scott Pilgrim is the real villain of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” the user lists various examples, including the most common argument — which is Scott, a 23-year-old, being in a relationship with a 17-year-old high schooler. But, as Alex Sawa wrote for CBR the following year, while fans shouldn’t look up to Scott as a role model, they can still “be inspired” by the lessons he learned in the end.

To make a greater point, none of Scott’s actions are endorsed in the story as they don’t yield positive results. O’Malley echoed that in our interview, saying, “The comic felt like a safe space to explore stupid things that I saw other people do in real life… It’s a story, and if you’ve seen other movies, or shows, there are other characters who do bad things, too. I don’t really take it seriously as a critique because it’s just what it is, like, characters are flawed.”

Photo: Netflix

BenDavid Grabinski, who is co-showrunner of the upcoming anime series with O’Malley, agreed. “That’s half the appeal of doing the show and working in this world: everybody’s pretty fucked up and flawed! It’s fun to figure out how people can grow up, but in ways that just feel fresh and interesting.”

He continued, “All my favorite TV shows are about people who are incredibly fucked up and some of them are way worse than anyone in this world of Scott Pilgrim. Most good TV shows have characters who still have a lot to learn about the world.”

Scott Pilgrim Takes Off hits Netflix on November 17, 2023.

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