Quarantine Retrospective: Ghost World

A movie about two buxom Jewish teenagers is the perfect time killer in the current age of a government mandated quarantine.

Photo by Tracy Bennett – © 2001 – United Artists – All Rights Reserved

I feel like I stepped into a time portal seeing a young Scarlett Johansson before Harvey Weinstein sunk his claws into her. If only someone could have saved her from a future life of herpes and unhappiness.

Speaking of herpes and unhappiness, Ghost World is in many ways a prequel of today’s modern day millennial women.

Self absorbed, narcissistic, insufferable, consumed by self misery and the false sense of heroism via social justice. Mix it all in a pot and you have our two main characters to a tee.

Photo by Tracy Bennett – © 2001 – United Artists – All Rights Reserved

Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Johansson), are two girls fresh out of high school and no plan whatsoever of what to do with their lives. Rebecca wants to find a job and get an apartment but Enid just isn’t made for this world. She hates people and the world is full of people so she doesn’t have a healthy relationship with anybody.

If the characters are so terrible then why is this such a fascinating movie?

Much like the film, Social Animals, Ghost World is a movie about terrible people who don’t know how or why they are terrible people. An open window into how awful people justify their life decisions. The film is a sociologist’s wet dream in terms of studying human interaction and rationale.

Photo by Tracy Bennett – © 2001 – United Artists – All Rights Reserved

The only difference between the two films is Social Animals was a film about progressive women in their 30s and Ghost World is about those same women during their high school days.

Watching both films, you see the progression of an individual’s life from age 18 to age 31 and during that time, they have learned nothing. As a viewer, you are watching a journey of bad life decisions in real time knowing exactly what the final destination is.

112 minutes you wait for that one moment of self reflection and realization where our characters see that it is not society, it’s them. However, in the year 2020, you know that the moment of clarity never comes to people like Enid and Rebecca.

Photo by Tracy Bennett – © 2001 – United Artists – All Rights Reserved

Teenage angst that evolves into manic depression, Ghost World is like reading the opposing team’s playbook and wondering why they just don’t slant left instead of pitching back. A simple change that seems simple for everyone else but those involved.

So what middle aged cat lady wrote this film? A 58 year old man named Daniel Clowes, an award winning writer who was lauded for his portrayal of adolescence and modern life.

That’s right, the mind and attitude of your modern day millennial was created by your modern day boomer.

A boomer who wrote a story about two hot teenage girls stalking a middle aged man, one of which eventually sleeps with him…before you start getting ideas, Clowes was only 38 when this came out, about the same age Steve Buscemi was when he starred in the…film…

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Speaking of Buscemi, he is the best part of the film by a mile. A down on his luck loser who has the same problems with people, Buscemi plays Seymour aka the boomer stage of this world of unhappiness but even then he is far more grounded than his teenager counterparts.

Seymour has at least been though some things in his life that provide more depth than his miserable teenage counterpart who look at pessimism as a positive personality trait. By film’s end, you are rooting for Seymour to find some happiness. Sadly he seeks it in a woman who can’t find happiness in herself and will never bring happiness to other people.

Reading this, you are probably baffled that I gave this film a 4 out of 5, why?

Photo by Tracy Bennett – © 2001 – United Artists – All Rights Reserved

You have to look at the film from a different perspective. This isn’t your average popcorn flick but a character study on modern day contemptuous attitude.

Watching this film, you can probably name 5-10 women off the top of your head that act exactly how the girls in this film do. It is ahead of it’s time in a lot of ways and a major warning sign to others.

The ending of this film has been debated for years, many view Enid’s final bus ride as a metaphor to suicide. Daniel Clowes himself couldn’t understand why people thought that the ending was a metaphor for Enid killing herself which shows that was not the interpretation that envisioned for the character.

Photo by Tracy Bennett – © 2001 – United Artists – All Rights Reserved

But as American millennials see an increase in drugs abuse, alcohol abuse, and suicide over the last 15-20 years, clearly there are people within that demographic who not only identify with the character but saw suicide as the next logical step in her life furthering the idea that Ghost World is a blueprint to a much bigger societal flaw.

Many will complain the film’s lack redeeming qualities, however you should look at this as a moment of self reflection. Ghost World is not meant to be a reliable film, and if you do, you should probably have a strong conversation with yourself.




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One thought on “Quarantine Retrospective: Ghost World

  1. Clowes also wrote “Art School Confidential” which I enjoyed quite a bit. The characters in general were horrible people, but the protagonist at least was relatable. Unfortunately, he had to destroy his innocence and morality prior to “making it” in the art world. I excused that aspect as the movie was a savage satire of the modern art community.

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