You and I have been good, good friends for a long time now. Sure, we’ve had our rough patches. Do I need to know as much as I do about furries? Good God no. But through it all, we’ve made it work. Heck, if it weren’t for you my cultural education would be horrible. I never would have discovered half the bands I listen to, or great comics like “Y the Last Man,” or — most importantly — I never would have known who Michael Cera was.
When we were both introduced to Cera, it was through the late, great series “Arrested Development.” You introduced me to “Arrested Development” on the now defunct “Fametracker” boards. “You have to check out this series” another poster, most likely named something like DawsonFan234, said. “It might be cancelled soon!” Sure enough, it was. Lucky for me, internet, I knew a friend of a friend who had them on DVD. I borrowed the set and was hooked before the end of the first episode. I loved the strange trip that was the Bluth’s world. But for all the crazy of the show, there was something that made it work that I think spoke to our generation, all of us then teenage geeks that were on the cusp of becoming indifferent 20-somethings. All of us that grew up not knowing a computer-less world. And that something was Michael Cera.
On the show, Cera plays George Michael Bluth (not named after the singer), son of the main character of the series Michael Bluth. A dork to the core, he harbors an illicit crush on his cousin Maebe Funke and constantly tries to get the attention of his somewhat self-centered father. George Michael was far from the most-quoted character on the show; more people probably remember his Christian girlfriend Ann (“her?”) as being more explicitly funny. But internet, I think we have to face a hard truth. And that is that for many of us, Michael Cera’s George Michael was what made “Arrested Development” accessible. We all had a little bit of George Michael in ourselves, and because of that he was the most relatable. So, internet, we embraced Michael Cera, metaphorically speaking. People on geeky websites everywhere were rooting for him. And when he scored a sleeper hit with “Superbad,” we all collectively high-fived. The awkward Canadian kid wasn’t just doing well for himself; he was doing well for awkward kids everywhere.
It’s been a long time since then internet. Message boards don’t seem to like him so much anymore. In fact, the general trend is to hate him. “God, Michael Cera sucks,” you say, “he plays the same damn role every time. What a stupid hipster!”
What happened? Cera went from being someone relatable to being the guy we love to hate. He made a self-serving, pretentious indie flick, “Paper Heart,” with with his then-girlfriend Charlyne Yi about love. He also made a few more indie teen comedies. Films like “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” that were more about the pretense of being cool and having semi-decent soundtracks than being good films. But I don’t think that’s what turned you, internet, against Cera. It was his public comments that he didn’t want to participate in an “Arrested Development” film that turned the tide. He went from being geek poster child to Internet Enemy Number One almost instantly. Internet, I think you would say that it was because he was turning his back on what made him a star. But I think there is something more to it. I think, internet, you felt he was betraying all of us. He was no longer the geek we could relate to. Instead he was one of them; a cool, hip guy who could barely deign to be involved with anything nerdy.
Internet, this brings me to the point of this letter. And I hate to do this given our great relationship. I really feel bad that I’m going to piss you off like this. But I do not hate Michael Cera. God help me, I kind of like him. Why? Truth be told, I was disappointed that he wasn’t as enthused about the prospect of an “Arrested Development” film as we all were. But I also get why he wanted to distant himself from it. Imagine, if you will, you get invited back to your junior high for a class reunion. You’d have to face all the people that knew you as geek, all the people you hated, without the advantage of rose-tinted glasses many years can put on past experiences. I don’t think I’d attend; would you? Now, I don’t mean to suggest that Cera hates his “Arrested Development” co-stars. Simply put, I don’t think anyone wants to revisit a time where people will know them as a person they no longer are. Michael Cera has had to work to differentiate himself from his on-screen “Arrested Development” character. For his career, would it really work to go back there? In our minds, he would become further entrenched as George Michael instead of Michael Cera.
As you well know, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” opens Aug. 13. You introduced me to that comic, too. It is a very cool, very nerdy series of manga-styled comics in which title character — slacker, bass player, would-be-line-cook, and all around hip guy — has to fight the seven evil exes of Ramona Flowers in order to win her love. We rejoiced when the film was announced, and practically dumped Gatorade coolers of water over each other when we found out film geek Edgar Wright was helming the project. But when Michael Cera was cast as Scott Pilgrim, the joy died down considerably. On message boards, people grumbled that he was wrong for the role. Instead of spacey Scott from the comics, you felt we would get the standard Michael Cera role; sardonic, dead-pan hipster. These grumbles have persisted all through the film’s production right till now, mere weeks away from the film’s release.
Internet, I implore you; let’s give Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim a chance. Yes, he did play similar characters in “Juno” and “Nick and Norah,” but what actor hasn’t played a few similar characters? Adam Sandler, Bruce Willis and many others have made a career of it. And Cera has shown he can mix it up a little. In “Youth in Revolt,” he pulled off both the awkward lead character and his alter-ego, a nefarious French man with a propensity for setting fires. We’ve had more than a few glimpses of Cera as Scott Pilgrim now, and I feel that we are getting the spacey Scott that we all love from the comics. In the trailers, he goofily grins at Ramona Flowers — played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead — and begs to make out, reacts with genuine shock when he realizes garlic bread makes you fat, and has a great Bugs Bunny-esque, manic vibe when involved in the action sequences. He may lack the pure slacker vibe we got from Scott in the comics; that said, is there anyone else who could really pull it off as perfectly as it is in our heads? Frankly, I doubt it. But Cera is coming pretty damn close. Unfortunately, internet, because of your history with Cera, you’ve become close-minded to the idea that he could be good in this film; skeptical in the extreme, in point of fact. I think that is truly too bad, because “Scott Pilgrim” could very well be the sleeper hit of the summer and you won’t even notice it because of your dislike of its lead.
So, internet, we’re at odds for a while. I hope that after Aug. 13 you’ll come around to my way of seeing things. Till then, it’s been a blast.
. . .
. . .
Follow H.G. Watson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HGWatson7.