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Ghost World's Lasting Lesson About Fandom and Pop Culture


A glance again on the 2001 movie reminds us that it doesn’t subject how other folks interact with tradition, pop or in a different way, so long as they get one thing out of it.

Ghost International is a cultural cornerstone for individuals who got here of age across the time of its 2001 unlock. Terry Zwigoff’s movie adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ seminal graphic novel captured the essence of a technology, and presented audiences to Scarlett Johansson two years prior to Misplaced In Translation made her a celeb. Now a bona fide cult vintage – with an Academy Award nomination and Criterion Assortment unlock as well – it’s referred to as a key textual content of disaffected early-2000s formative years tradition.

However Ghost International has higher importance that affects a broader swathe of the inhabitants. Along with a tale of post-high-school malaise, it’s quietly one of the crucial smartest movies ever made about how we devour and appraise popular culture.


Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) and Enid (Thora Birch)

Ghost International tells the sardonic story of Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Johansson), contemporary highschool grads staring down the barrel of the adult-life gun. Enid has to take a summer time artwork magnificence to finish her degree, whilst Rebecca leaps into discovering paintings and residences – however each spend their downtime wandering round watching washed-up weirdos. One such weirdo is Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a collector of vintage blues data, with whom Enid paperwork a stunning connection. Those 3 characters jump off one some other, falling out and in of friendship, main as much as an correctly morose climax.

Popular culture is all over the place on this film. In the first actual scene, the digital camera friends throughout the home windows of Enid’s neighbours as they watch their more than a few TV displays of selection, prior to deciding on Enid herself, dancing alongside to a Bollywood videotape. From there, the film’s popular culture sprawls and sprawls – nevertheless it’s no longer the mainstream geekdom of Funko Pops and Comedian-Cons.

Ghost International is smeared with a patina of drained, unsightly, late-’90s Americana; shopper tradition long gone to seed. Enid and Rebecca’s highschool commencement is subsidized by means of Tropicana, Hostess, and Dunkin’ Donuts. Lengthy-lens pictures compress whole town blocks’ value of ageing mom-&-pop retail outlets and chain retail outlets to the purpose of oversaturation. Enid wears a “Raptor” T-shirt that might simply be off-brand Jurassic Park merch. We talk over with comedian retail outlets. A film theater. A Blockbuster. And everybody within the film has some connection to track, whether or not it’s Enid’s fascination with punk and Bollywood, Seymour’s devotion to blues, or nunchuck-wielding Doug’s (Dave Sheridan) fondness for steel. You’d be hard-pressed to discover a five-minute stretch of the movie with out prominently-placed manufacturers – most probably pale from years of daylight.

Seymour (Steve Buscemi) surrounded by his pop-culture treasures.

Seymour (Steve Buscemi) surrounded by means of his pop-culture treasures.

Predictably, Ghost International’s characters use popular culture as a number one manner of verbal exchange. They have interaction via references to tradition, even leaving behind actual lifestyles in its favour. Enid and Seymour bond over a document she buys at his storage sale, whilst Seymour himself has constructed a complete social circle round document amassing. Fed on by means of their subculture, Seymour and pals talk about data as though they have been crucial issues on earth. However even if Seymour is the primary to confess how unhappy his obsession should appear, when he begins relationship he’s virtually primally repulsed by means of clashing tastes in track. In Ghost International, id is outlined by means of the tradition you devour – or in Rebecca’s extra self-consciously “grownup” case, the tradition you don’t.

A key part in Ghost International’s multilayered way this is the revival and appropriation of ageing imagery. Early on, Enid and Rebecca dine in a “unfashionable” ’50s-style diner whose jukebox performs solely ’90s pop, redubbing their curly-coiffed waiter after Bizarre Al – himself identified for reappropriating and parodying track. Pat Healy’s edgelord comedian artist dismisses Enid’s apparel – “clearly a 1977 authentic punk rock glance,” in keeping with Enid – as a pose. Seymour witnesses a blues legend play a are living set… as an opener for s****y “unique” bro band BluesHammer.

All through Ghost International, the tectonic layers of the previous resurface and merge with the recent, forming a messy sludge of invention and exploitation. It is value including that blues itself originated in African-American tradition, but the entire movie’s blues fanatics (at the side of BluesHammer) are white. Hell, two of them – Buscemi and David Pass – have been later forged because the stereotypical “white voices” in Boots Riley’s Sorry To Hassle You. You do not get a lot whiter than the ones guys, and their casting suits completely in Ghost International’s carnival of appropriation.

The clearest case of all this comes along a treatise at the price of artwork. Enid’s observational cartoons pass unappreciated by means of her artwork trainer (Illeana Douglas), who dismisses them as “low artwork” subsequent to her classmates’ extra self-important items. But if Enid discovers a discontinued, racist fast-food chain mascot in Seymour’s condominium, and brings it in as a discovered object, she right away beneficial properties her trainer’s admire. Nonetheless, it is an excessive amount of for different workforce, who order it taken down from a faculty exhibition. There are lots of attitudes at play right here – more than a few characters see attention-grabbing tackiness, profound statement, or frightening obscenity – and all are seen significantly via Zwigoff’s lens.

Is any artwork in point of fact “worthy?” It is all simply stuff, in the end. Most likely the present theme of Ghost International is that tradition bears best the worth one puts in it. Enid and Rebecca each interact in snarky, “ironic” cultural intake – Enid with some measure of complaint, Rebecca with shallow dismissal. Seymour adores his blues data to the purpose of obsession, whilst his pals use their collections as standing symbols. Facet characters really love subject material for which the protagonists have best scorn. And all of those practices are appeared down upon by means of one persona or some other. However Clowes and Zwigoff have such transparent affection for everybody of their film that each and every way turns out similarly legitimate. What distinction does it make how other folks interact with tradition so long as they get one thing out of it?

Enid is unappreciated by her art teacher (Illeana Douglas).

Enid is unappreciated by means of her artwork trainer (Illeana Douglas).

Daniel Clowes claims to have meant Ghost International’s eye on late-’90s popular culture as a solution to The Catcher within the Rye’s view of the ’50s. However a ways from Holden Caulfield’s cynicism, the movie model of Ghost International particularly feels in love with the whole breadth of the pop-cultural rainbow, in all its good looks and tackiness, its clever statement and lizard-brain leisure. Is there a “proper” technique to devour tradition? In fact no longer. However someplace inside of Ghost International, there is a means that is best for you.

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