The year was 2011. Brightly colored skinny jeans and flannel were in style, purple hair was all the rage and Hot Topic was still (kind of) for goths. In short, everything was awkward and so was I.
As I sat uncomfortably in my high school friend’s room at a sleepover that already felt a little too long, my friend and I tried to pick out a movie to pass the time. Having already burned through “Free Willy” and some other classics, my friend held up her copy of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” I didn’t really know anything about it, except that Michael Cera was in it, and I only knew him from “Juno” and “Superbad” — two movies my parents wouldn’t let me see because they thought I was too young.
My friend popped the movie into her DVD player, and we sat watching it at a painfully low volume. Since I couldn’t hear anything and was too self-conscious to ask if we could turn it up, I didn’t know what was actually going on in the movie. It seemed like a movie for gamers, and I wasn’t really allowed to play video games growing up; I figured I wasn’t the target demographic. Sure, I could tell that Michael Cera’s titular character was an awkward guy, but it wasn’t until the second viewing that I figured out I had finally met my on-screen likeness.
You see, I have always been an awkward, quiet kid. I strived to be a Hermione Granger from “Harry Potter” or an Amy Pond from “Doctor Who,” but both of these characters were too cool, outspoken and self-assured for me to relate to. At first, I didn’t want to rewatch the movie again with the volume turned up because of Scott, but rather because I wanted to find out what the bizarre editing style that disregards time was all about.
Weeks later, we rewatched the movie at a proper volume — and I fell in love with it. I was hooked by the soundtrack, and Scott’s awkwardness almost mirrored my own. He exuded all of the qualities that I often disliked about myself. As he tumbled over words, expressed insecurity about his hair, utilized “fun” facts as pickup lines and realized that bread can, indeed, make you fat — it felt like there was finally an on-screen character I could relate to.
But who cares? Does it really matter for there to be an awkward person as the main character? I get it, this movie is far from being inclusive when it comes to diversity. I get that Michael Cera is probably pretty privileged as a white male, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relate to him, that I can’t hold this movie close to my heart.
Seeing him on screen as Scott, fighting for the girl he loves all while being very far from suave, yet seemingly comfortable in his own skin most of the time, was something that I needed as a high school sophomore. As mentioned, I was really awkward and insecure, so seeing that someone like Scott could be the protagonist of a movie inspired me to embrace my own personality and all of its so-called embarrassing aspects.
After this second viewing, I continued to rewatch the movie throughout my teenage years with pretty much all of my friends who actually meant something to me. And the more I watched it, the more I loved it. The movie only got more relatable, managing to outline different stages of my teenage life, even after high school: being in a not-so-great band, lacking a sense of time and having to deal with your past mistakes.
After this movie, I essentially became Michael Cera’s biggest fan. I went down the list, watching his greatest hits: “Juno,” “Superbad,” “Arrested Development.” I discovered that he had a Bandcamp album, True That, featuring songs that reminded me of soaking in the milieu of a dull suburban wasteland, with a track titled “What Gives (…I Can’t Live Like This)” and two others with samples of the Isiah Carey country ass town meme. (Yes, I was full of teenage angst.)
Since I was already obsessed with the “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “Juno” movie soundtracks, True That brought my love for the actor to a whole new level. It’s not as though I had a celebrity crush on him, it’s more that if I were to have a movie written about my life, Michael Cera would be the person who I would want to play me.
Am I really Michael Cera? Did diversity in TV truly fail me this much? Who knows. All I know is that he seems comfortable in his own skin, or alright, his characters seem comfortable in their written roles. But that still means a lot to me, and I’m sure it means a lot to people like me who are simply not as suave as Timothée Chalamet. The always awkward, but comfortably so, Michael Cera taught me how to be comfortable with my own awkwardness. I can still be in a band, I can still get the girl and, just like Scott Pilgrim, I can still earn the power of self-respect.