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Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001) - Carrying On in a Ghost World

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  • Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001) - Carrying On in a Ghost World

    In the film we see both Enid and Rebecca struggling to adapt to the changes that come with entering adulthood. We clearly see Enid struggling more, starting with her being forced to take a summer art class for “retards and fuck-ups”. Rebecca adapts to the world rather quickly, getting a job and small apartment shortly after graduation, while Enid is dragging behind her, not ready to get a job or make any real commitments yet. Though we see Enid put some effort and passion into her art, she still is not able to commit to it completely until the end, after her scholarship was revoked.

    I think everyone had some sort of struggle growing up, and certainly would love to go back and advise ourselves on which decisions to make. In the case of Enid, I would probably advise her to find and pursue her passions as a career. Her love for art could lead a happy and fulfilling career, despite not being granted the art school scholarship. I’m sure her Coon’s Chicken fiasco in the newspaper would probably stur a lot of interest in many employers and different art schools, perhaps opening the door to a successful career somewhere.

    Besides school and work, she seems to struggle with her personal relationships as well. Her relationship with her father is terrible. Her friendship with Rebecca slowly falls apart as they make different life choices, and new friendship with Seymour gets quite complicated. I think Enid would have been happiest staying close to Rebecca, instead of letting their friendship fade. Seymour and Rebecca also got along very well as casual friends, listening to records and sharing interests.

    By the end of the film, Enid is not able to accept her life for what it is. If you were to give Enid some advice on how to live in a world where nothing is what it seems, what would it be? Do you think that she should have found a way to pursue art? What advice would you give her for her relationships?
    Last edited by aanderson; 05-18-2016, 01:43 PM. Reason: EDIT: formatting

  • #2
    How the film dealt with art is very interesting to me as an art student. The ways that art is defined can sometimes be very narrow and constricting, such as how the art teacher defines it in the film. Ghost World grapples with the controversy of “high” art versus “low art.” Despite the effort and craft that Enid and other students put into their pieces, the teacher rejects them as being “low art.” “High art,” has to be controversial, avant garde, and ugly. High art is considered to be like the performance art the teacher showed, and the “feminist” sculptures. When Enid brings in the controversial Coon’s Chicken ad, spinning it as a found art object and a social critique, I was pretty amused. Enid knows the teacher and her stance on art is totally bogus so she brought in the poster knowing that the teacher would eat it up.
    In any case, as Ghost World tells it, even the realm of art and creation is inauthentic and phony. However, Enid seems willing to accept it because art seems to be the only thing that brings her some happiness and gives her some meaning. She even seems to be willing to go to art school and take on some responsibility, but she seems to lose all resolve when that option is revoked. Due to the weight of the rest of the inauthentic world, she doesn’t try to go and apply to a different school, for example.
    In response to your question, I would encourage Enid to go to art school and seek out any meaning she can find within that world. Enid could have been a very interesting, critical, and satirical artist. Also, she probably would have had a great time messing with all the people at the school who take art so seriously (like the art teacher.) However, Ghost World does not portray a reality for Enid where this path is a possibility.


    • #3
      Life is about the choices you make. Everything you do has a consequence or a reward. The hard part of life is not knowing the outcome of a made decision to most that fear hinders the ability to make decisions. Planning is essential in life and that is something Enid struggles at doing, she tends to wonder around aimlessly. Growing up having a parent with a strict rule of thumb helped shape who I am today, Enid and her father have a strange relationship. It seems like she bosses her father around and doesn’t listen closely to what he says to her. She doesn’t like taking direction from anybody and mixing all these points I have brought up together makes a nasty combination. Why to people date others that are much older? I think that happens because young men and women are seeking structure that they lack at home. In this case it’s the broken relationship between Enid and her father that draws her to an older man.
      My suggestions for Enid would be to not take her relationship for granted and do peruse art much sooner than she did because with application to it she might have gotten a sweet deal from it. Also I would advise her to stay away from the older infatuation with Seymour because she did more damage there than anything. The way the movie played out I almost would have liked to see Enid take the computer science job with her father’s girlfriend and started thinking about adult hood. The transition between child and adult is quick and being prepared is half the battle application is the other half so I would emphasis those two things to the lost protagonist Enid.


      • #4
        I too was very interested in how art was treated within this film. I would hesitate to say that Enid could just "pursue her passion" of art, because I think the film is showing us just how inauthentic that has become. The movie title is Ghost World, and that ghostliness seems to be inescapable. The art teacher doesn't want her art students to do their own work, but to do work that reflects her interests. Is she a singular example, or can we imagine that there are many more art teachers just like her, rejecting students' diaries and praising a tampon in a cup? As funny as the movie is, it's also very heartbreaking. Art is a reflection of our society, of our values, of a culture's heart. When even our art is inauthentic, when inauthenticity is encouraged in high schools around the country, what can come from that but more inauthenticity? What is shaping future generations but the inauthentic world we have before us?

        Enid has no one to look up to for how to live an authentic life because there is no one who is doing it, at least not well. Seymour seems to hate himself and his life, her father has been reduced to a consumptive, complacent "life form", and the art teacher doesn't recognize authentic art when it's handed to her in a child's diary.


        • #5
          I love the way the film addresses art with regards to authenticity. I think that it uses the example of the art teacher and her definition of art to represent people’s distorted view of authenticity. The teacher has a very narrow view of what is “good art,” or what she believes is authentic, but in reality she only believes that because it is what she thinks she should believe. For example, the one student consistently produces inauthentic “controversial” art, and the teacher consistently praises her for it (tampon in the teacup, etc.). Once Enid realizes what is going on, she turns in the clown poster and tells the art teacher exactly what she wants to hear. I also really like what Sgordon said about the art teacher only praising work that reflected her interests. I think that the film is commenting on how people are generally narcissistic, and that often leads them to be inauthentic in their interactions with others. The teacher doesn’t acknowledge that each individual has a right to have his or her own interests and style. She projects her own ideals onto the students, forcing them to be inauthentic if they want to do well in the class.


          • #6
            I agree with the vast majority of your insight into Ghost World's Enid struggling to accept inevitable realities, including school, work, family, and the general idea of a structured life in accordance with normative standards. It was interesting how you referenced the Coon’'s Chicken artwork and its potential impact for Enid if she had decided to pursue a career in art because I thought the exact same thing while watching the scene in which the agitated crowd seeks its removal. I considered how that "fiasco" would naturally catch the attention of local –– if not, national –– media outlets and consequently boost Enid into enough of a spotlight to create a potentially successful niche in the art world. The actual painting was bizarre and reprehensible, but it served as a reflection of Enid’s longing to detach from normal experiences and expectations. Thus, the advice I would give to Enid would concern pursuing this sense of individualism and detachment, but not at the cost of those close to you. Perhaps through her interest in art, I’d suggest she start looking at the world through a momentary lens; focus on herself without worrying about the lives of others and future implications. A large part of Enid’s problem, I've theorized, stems from a grim concentration on the future. So, if she focused on the present moment, trying to enjoy herself on a day-to-day basis, she may not have hopped on that bus.


            • #7
              I believe that every one the that kind of time that do not know what to do and confused about the life, social life and all the things happening around us like they have. That is the transition between teenagers’ life to the adulthood. Sometimes we all feel that nobody cares about us even though that is not true. At the end of the movie, Enid took the bus that she even does not know where the bus will take her to and disappears in the darkness which also show us what is this “transition life” looks like and how hard it is for teenagers. However, the thing that they should know is everyone in our life has to face this part and it is normal. They cannot only live in their own bubbles. They have to come out of their bubbles to feel better things that life provides to us. Sometimes when two edge people get together it will make the life edger. Thinking more positive things that life provides to us.


              • #8
                I think that giving Enid advice on what to do or what she should’ve done doesn’t seem to be very productive. We see in the film Enid’s constant rejection of authority as well as her resentment to those around her that are showing success. Enid’s relationship with her father (the most direct authority figure in her life) clearly shows that she is unwilling to listen. While he is unable to connect with her, he does often offer up advice, which Enid immediately rejects. Even with her used to be best friend Rebecca. Rebecca who is on the same level as her as age and stature hints that Enid kind of needs to get her life together. It is this action that Enid uses to herself from Rebecca and more or less terminates their relationship. While Enid does have a promising path in art, I believe, that it would be she who needs to find it. I think that it is interesting that the one moment in the film that Enid gets an option to go down a road that could lead into success and enjoyment, this option is taken from her. I think that by having her scholarship removed the film is almost saying that she needs to find her own way or that she personally isn’t ready for a commitment like this. Enid has to do it on her own terms seemingly like everything else in her life. Any sort of third party telling her what to do will just be rejected no matter what you have to say to her.


                • #9
                  Enid's "love of art" seemed to be a sham throughout the entire movie. Not once was I convinced that this identity was one she made for herself, rather one that was placed on her due to societies love of labeling. Many of us go through the same instances while growing up searching for our own identity. Her relationship with her father also never seemed to be one of a father-daughter, rather a babysitter at times. Without any structure in her life, it seems as if she has no meaning and thus chooses art as her identity simply because it was the only thing she didn't seem to loathe.

                  If I were to give her any advice I would first start to help her realize that structure, however fake and annoying it may be in society, is something that can truly help you prosper in this world. Also, growing up is something that we all do, but maturity is something that we all decide to do. In that I mean, no one is going to force you to become who you truly want to be, but the ends to justify the means. All of our decisions have consequences, so understanding the system and the way it works could help administer structure into your life, and possibly help you realize your true calling in the future.


                  • #10
                    In response to the comment saying that Enid’s love of art is inauthentic, I would like to offer the fact that she loved to draw in her free time. The first thing that comes to mind is the pictures she drew of her and Seymour, where she clearly displays passion and artistic skill. I agree that she does not really view art as a viable path, but it seems like art is one of the few things she actually enjoys doing. I also thought the comments about high and low art in relation to the teacher were absolutely correct, and very interesting. There also seems to be a general consensus among this thread that Enid should pursue what makes her happy, and try to be happy with what life throws at her. A few of you also made the point that at some point when you grow up, you begin to realize that life is full of compromises, and that you will certainly be forced to let go of some desires. I think it’s fair to say everyone gives something up as they mature and become adults, and in Enid’s case, she doesn’t seem willing to make that sacrifice to adulthood.