Ghost World: A tale of fitting in

Adapted from Dan Clowes’ adult comic book of the same name, Ghost World can be described as a collection of moments depicting a near-universal transition: the end of high school and formal education, to finding a job, and the other realities associated with adulthood (or thereabouts).The protagonists are two teenage girls, Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson); best friends, comrades in arms, connected by their judgemental outlook but increasingly alienated by their diverging paths.

The most refreshing aspect of this film initially is Enid and Rebecca themselves. For once, these teenage girls are not represented as shallow airheads. Instead, their characters could be considered an inspiration for Ellen Page’s Juno; blunt, sarcastic, judgemental. Incredibly judgemental, in fact. “I just hate all these extroverted, obnoxious, pseudo-bohemian losers,” sneers Enid after being approached by a guy advertising his upcoming music gig. Much like Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield, phonies seem to be Enid and Rebecca’s greatest enemies. But their disdain is not merely limited to the hipsters of their school and town; whilst watching an ‘indie’ comedian on TV, Enid remarks, “if he’s so weird, how come he’s wearing Nikes?”

Rebecca saying that a guy gives her a “total boner” is another highlight. This candidness is appealing because it is relatable.

As the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that whilst Rebecca is preparing herself for the realities of adulthood and is perhaps growing out of her judgemental teenage years, Enid is struggling. She inadvertently befriends an outcast who, in his mid-forties, has only an extensive record collection to be proud of. Seymour (Steve Buscemi) also finds himself on the outskirts of society: “I can’t relate to 99% of humanity,” he says after yet another failed date. Enid begins to realise that whilst things that seemed like they’d last forever – High School, her and Rebecca’s friendship – are over, there are some things that do stay the same.

It is at this point that Ghost World, which some would interpret as a ‘coming-of-age’ film, makes a statement many of us don’t want to hear: struggling to fit in doesn’t stop when adolescence is over. Some individuals spend their whole lives not quite understanding the people around them.

If you’re looking for a feel-good ending or reassurance that everything will be alright, then you won’t find it here. What you will find, however, are two very relatable girls and a story that, whilst containing almost universal experiences, is also incredibly insightful; a jarringly accurate portrayal of young womanhood, at times amusing, at times overwhelmingly depressing, but wholly relatable.