by: Kyle Amato1
Ghost World, you’re not one of my favorite movies anymore, but you once were my everything. An open letter to a film near and dear…
Dear Ghost World,
Where to begin?
You are a film near and dear to my heart. You’re part of the bedrock of my love of film. But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to notice the cracks. And now, our relationship is far more complicated than it once was.
I first saw you at sixteen, the perfect age for your special brand of misanthropy. I loved watching Enid and Rebecca planning to spend their summer joking about local freaks, tormenting their friend Josh, and wandering around their boring town. Then the melodrama kicked in, and I found myself terrified. Enid’s post-high school challenges and disappointments made me doubt my artistic ambitions. I asked myself if art was worth pursuing at all. If it wasn’t working out for Enid, what hope did I possibly have?
I ignored those questions, for better and for worse. I kept writing. I’m still writing. For a long time, I credited my motivation to you. You were a cautionary tale. I told people I wasn’t going to end up like Enid. You made me determined to succeed.
I’ve shown you to just about everyone I know. I always want to know what my closest friends think about you. They’ve all loved you, naturally. They’ve said great things. You’ve got charm to spare.
But each time I watch you, you seem different. You feel like you’ve changed, but obviously you haven’t. You can’t.
So, what’s different? Me? It would have to be me. Have I outgrown you? Or am I overthinking this? What’s wrong?
Ghost World, I need closure. I want you to know that I care about you. Deeply. It’s not your fault that I’m less enamored with you than I was almost eight years ago. People change. Movies don’t. It’s time to bite the bullet. I’m going to tell you exactly how I feel. It’s not easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.
Ghost World, you’re not one of my favorite movies anymore.
I need you to understand where I’m coming from. I’m not saying you’re meaningless to me. You’re burned into my mind forever. I’ll always remember how I felt the first time I saw your brilliant opening sequence, where Enid dances alone to a bizarre, upbeat musical performance. The first time I watched Enid and Rebecca stomp on their graduation caps and flip off their high school. The first time I watched Enid realize that they’ll probably never see most of their classmates ever again.
Your first act changed my life, Ghost World. Please know that.
But I’m no longer a teenager. I have ambitions beyond pranking a desperate man in the missed connections section of the local newspaper. I don’t want to wander around without purpose. I’m not Enid anymore. It’s harder to sympathize with her now. I’m watching her destroy her future before it’s even begun. I wish she could understand that you can have a job and still create art. I can see beyond her narrow teenage anger. We no longer share that mindset. Enid still acts like a child. I know you understand. I know that’s the point of your story. I know Thora Birch is perfect in the role. But I can’t keeping experiencing this heartbreak. I can’t watch her take this emotional journey and lose everything again and again. I can’t watch her fall into such an uncomfortable relationship with Steven Buscemi’s character, Seymour.
Ghost World, why did Seymour have to be so important? I don’t think your plot should revolve around him. I don’t think you should have had a plot at all! Daniel Clowes’ original work barely did, and it’s still brilliant. The Seymour stuff is starting to feel forced. Also, he’s in his forties and he sleeps with an eighteen-year-old. That’s pretty messed up.
I still love Scarlett Johansson’s performance as Rebecca. I know you were making a point by showing the girls grow apart, but she deserved more screentime. Her growing frustration with Enid feels all too real now. Rebecca is the only character who gets to grow up.
Maybe that’s not entirely true. In the end, Enid silently leaves on an out of service bus without a clear destination. She has no future at home. She can’t hold down a job. She didn’t get into the art program. I guess making the decision to disappear counts as growing up, in a way.
I don’t hate you, Ghost World. How could I? You’re a fantastic film. Your score is perfect. It reminds me the most of the Daniel Clowes’ original graphic novel. There’s something so hauntingly beautiful about the unaccompanied piano. I think you found the weirdest-looking people possible to cast as extras. They add so much depth to your depressing world. It’s invaluable. I could go on and on about the strengths of your actors, but I don’t want to waste anymore of your time.
Ghost World, it’s hard when a movie is inextricably tied to a time, a place, or a certain age. You were one of the first movies I discovered on my own. You weren’t an animated blockbuster or an Oscar winner. No one told me to watch you. I just saw you at the library one day and decided to take a chance. I liked your cover. I bought my own copy days later. That DVD is never leaving my collection.
You make me feel like a teenager every time I watch you, and that’s not a feeling I need anymore. When I was sixteen, I had no idea who I was or what I was doing. Back then, you made me feel less alone. You understood me.
But I’m an adult now. I’ve built meaningful relationships with others. I’m balancing my work and my art the best I can. I’ve grown apart from Enid and her struggle.
I’m grateful for you, Ghost World. You will always be a part of who I am. But I have to move on. I need closure you cannot provide. You’re only a waypoint towards a destination better and brighter.
And Enid isn’t coming back.
- Header art by Bijou Karman. [↩]