Just Friends and Scott Pilgrim: Rom-coms for men?

Every year, I watch Just Friends and Scott Pilgrim, and I think they’re so rewatchable because they’re rom-coms unabashedly from the male POV (I’m male). Whereas I think most rom-coms are geared toward women as the principal audience and perspective.

In the case of Just Friends, I’m struck by the casual cruelty Amy Smart’s character delivers to the hopelessly kind character played by Ryan Reynolds. And his only response to the cruelty – be successful and strong and never again yield to emotion – is the stereotypically male response. The movie shows no pity for its lead, and no judgment for the cruelty. Instead it shows understanding – the cruelty is just “how it is,” it is not delivered with malice and the real problem is with those who stick around for it (allow themselves to be ‘friendzoned’).

And so what, the movie seems to say. It’s the prerogative of Amy Smart’s character to act however she wants. It’s Ryan Reynolds’ character that must find a way to navigate this. (We can imagine movie references to guys being jerks as the flip side of this theme). The answer, according to the movie, is not to complain, it’s not to judge – it’s to better yourself.

And in the end, when the guy gets the girl, we understand – that he proved his worthiness when he learned to incorporate strength and emotional vulnerability together.

Scott Pilgrim is also told from a male POV, but in this case, the roles are reversed. Scott Pilgrim is immature and casually cruel to the women around him. Again, it’s not out of deliberate malice, just a general, head-in-the-sky inattentiveness that causes pain to those in his orbit.

Scott Pilgrim doesn’t try to improve himself, because he doesn’t realize the problems are there. He simply reacts to the challenges thrown his way, and in the process of strengthening himself to face those challenges, he recognizes that he was being cruel.

And then when he ends up with the girl of his dreams, it’s earned because he’s accepted and transcended his immaturity, and also because those he’s hurt grant him forgiveness once he has sincerely atoned and recognized his error.

These two different romantic comedies are both told from an unabashedly male POV. In both cases, they showcase cruelty, and the power to transcend it with self awareness and strength. I wonder if there are other films like these.

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