Netflix has released a new teaser for its upcoming Scott Pilgrim Takes Off anime, and it looks pretty good. The eight-episode series will premiere on the service on November 17, and much of the creative team and cast behind the 2010 live-action film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which was based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s six-part graphic novel series, is returning. Naturally, fans of the cult classic film (where Michael Cera plays the titular hero and hops around Toronto fighting his new girlfriend’s evil exes) are incredibly excited.
But the beloved film made a few big changes when bringing the graphic novels to the big screen that I didn’t love as a fan of the original books. That’s why I’m hopeful that a second chance at adapting the story in the Scott Pilgrim Takes Off can do right by one character who was done so dirty in the film: Scott’s bandmate and friend Stephen Stills.
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Let Stephen Stills be gay in the Scott Pilgrim anime
A lot of Stephen’s most important characteristics are captured in the 2010 film. He’s “the Talent” of the Scott’s Band, Sex Bob-omb as its singer and guitarist, a very toxic on-and-off relationship with the friend group’s socialite Julie which clearly makes them both miserable, and he also has a neurotic need to make it in the music industry. But one major aspect of his personality and identity is completely missing from the film: Joseph, a fellow musician, and Stephen’s eventual boyfriend.
Even in the graphic novels, Joseph isn’t a major character in the Scott Pilgrim story. He’s mostly a bit player for his first few appearances, there only to say an extremely cutting one-liner and quietly ogle at whatever handsome frontman of the band whose concert he’s attending. But eventually, he and Stephen start recording an album together, an event that quietly happens in the background of Scott’s antics throughout the latter half of the six-book series. Joseph is, by design, a bit of a wallflower, and for much of the series’ run, he flies under the radar. But all of that changes in the final issue, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, when Stephen and Joseph reveal that they’re a couple to Scott, and by extension, the reader.
Turns out, all that “making a record together” was probably something else, as the end result was only a 17-minute-long recording (certainly not a full album) and Stephen and Joseph’s official coupling . But they don’t tell Scott until the very end of the final book because he “seemed busy.” Scott jokes that his tumultuous relationship with Julie must have turned him gay, but it does recontextualize why the two probably couldn’t make it work beyond their constant personality clashes. Stephen Stills falls into the background more than a lot of Scott’s friends during the books’ run, but it’s clear he was figuring his own story out while Scott was off fighting his girlfriend-to-be’s evil exes.
The sad part is, this was never shown in the 2010 film. This likely wasn’t out of a desire to remove the gay stuff from a major motion picture that doesn’t shy away from talking about or showing Scott’s gay roommate Wallace. The absence was because the final issue of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel was released only a month before Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was released in theaters, making it impossible for its content to have been included in the film’s development. There are some similarities between the endings of the graphic novel run and the film, like Scott’s final confrontation with Romana’s biggest, baddest, evilest ex Gideon, but some of the ways it branches off have always felt like the movie worked with an unfinished final draft. That includes Nega Scott, a dark manifestation of Scott’s own selfishness, being a short gag rather than a big thematic moment for our hero to confront his own flaws, or Stephen Stills never getting to come out of the closet.
As of right now, we don’t know if Joseph will appear in Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, but we do know new cast members are set to be announced for the project between now and November, and that the show will “expand the universe” in some way. So it certainly seems like it’s a second chance to get things right with an exceptionally talented cast. As someone who has waited to see Stephen Stills’ journey of self-discovery and homosexual escapades captured rather than hinted at until an ultimate reveal, I’m hopeful this is what I and other fans have been looking for for over a decade.