Ghost World Video Essay Transcript
A formative movie for millennials who came of age in the late 90’s early 2000s was the indie classic from 2001, Ghost World. Directed and co-written by Terry Zwigoff, Ghost World was based on the graphic novel of the same name, written and illustrated by Daniel Clowes.
The movie stars Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson. Thora at this point was best known for her role as Jane Burnham in the 2000 Sam Mendes film American Beauty. Scarlett’s biggest role up to that point was Grace in the 1998 drama The Horse Whisperer, directed by her future Winter Soldier co-star Robert Redford.
Ghost World also stars Cohen brothers alum Steve Buscemi, character actress Ileana Douglas, and Bob Balaban. It’s also peppered with memorable cameos by David Cross, Pat Healy, Patrick Fischler, and Tom McGowan.
So what makes Ghost World the timeless cult classic it is amongst those who were teenagers in the early aughts when they first laid eyes on it? Thora Birch’s character, Enid, is the personification of teen angst, hating everything and everyone that doesn’t conform to her very specific definition of coolness. Just like Shannon Sassoman’s misanthropic Lauren in the 2001 The Rules Of Attraction, to Enid the worst thing you can do, the least cool, is to care about anything or anyone.
She doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere or in any social group, and doesn’t relate to almost anyone her own age. All of these qualities are highly relatable to any person who grew up as an introverted, sensitive, or artistically inclined teenager.
Along with High Fidelity and SLC Punk, Ghost World was highly influential in shaping the musical tastes of my generation. From the very beginning, the movie kicks off with the up-tempo 1960s surf rock of Mohammed Rafi’s ‘Jan Pan Jan Ho’, 1978 punk rock classic ‘What Do I Get’ by the Buzzcocks, to the Skip James’ seminal ragtime melody ‘Devil Got My Woman’, Ghost World was instrumental in introducing a new generation to obscure mid-century musical gems.
The influences gleaned from Ghost World don’t stop at its eclectic musical choices, the costuming, done by Mary Zophres, is equally as impressionable. From her iconic green plaid skirt and raptor t-shirt to her black jeans, leather jacket, and green hair combo, to her black polo with white color with a Catwoman headpiece that Seymour buys her from the local adult sex shop, Enid was the ultimate early aughts emo-punk fashion icon.
Enid finds a kindred spirit in Steve Buscemi’s Seymour, a middle-aged record collector, who Enid meets when she calls him pretending to be a woman Seymour met at an airport. Enid calls Seymour pretending to be the blond woman he reaches out to in the personal ads. The scene where Seymour sits and waits for his date who never shows up is one of the saddest things ever put to film.
Ghost World is a timeless classic, a movie that could take place at any time, in anywhere USA.