Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes

Ghost World

Title: Ghost World
Studio: MGM
Date: February 2002
Rating: R
Runtime: 111 minutes
UPC: 027616867650

Plot Summary: After graduating from high school, social misfits and best friends Enid and Becky have plans to get jobs and move into an apartment together.  Forced to take a summer art class in order to complete all her graduation requirements, Enid’s sarcastic and apathetic attitude make it difficult for her to find (and keep) a job, while the more sociable Becky is determined to achieve her goal.  After they pull a prank on a local man named Seymour, Enid finds his social awkwardness appealing and befriends him, becoming interested in his hobby of record collecting.  She tries to help him build his confidence and find him a date, but her plan backfires when his new girlfriend disapproves of him hanging out with Enid.  Unstimulated in art class, increasingly distant from Becky, and avoided by Seymour, Enid realizes that she hates how her life is turning out and would just like to escape from it.

Critical Evaluation: Based on a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes (who adapted it into a screenplay), Ghost World is set in the early 90s in suburban Southern California.  I reviewed this film hoping that it would be a good fit for a current young adult materials collection in a library, but I have to say I think it would be a rare teen that would be interested in it.  While outcasts and misfits make compelling protagonists, Enid and Becky were unnaturally sophisticated and alienating, interesting yet unrelatable characters.  The tagline for the film is “Accentuate the negative” – exactly how the main characters behave, delivering biting commentary about their environment and the people around them.  I liked Enid for being unapologetically herself, and especially enjoyed the moments when her façade of maturity cracked (for example, her giggling behavior in a sex shop), but overall I can’t imagine myself enjoying this movie as a teen.  You know you’re watching an odd film when Steve Buscemi’s character is the most relatable.

Annotation: During the summer after her high school graduation, Enid becomes increasingly distant from her best friend, Becky, and strikes up a friendship with an awkward older man.

About the Director: Born in 1949 in Appleton, Wisconsin, Terry Zwigoff is an American director that specializes in small budget films, often based on alternative (not mainstream) comics.  He moved to San Francisco in the 1970s and met Robert Crumb, the founder of an underground comics movement, sparking his interest in the genre.  In addition to Ghost World, based on a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, he directed a documentary about Crumb.  He also directed the dark comedy Bad Santa, starring Billy Bob Thornton.

Like the character Seymour, Zwigoff is an avid collector of 78 records, especially jazz and blues.  He plays the cello and mandolin (in fact, he once played in a string band with Robert Crumb) and is currently a member of The Excitement Boys, an instrumental trio based out of San Francisco.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Discussion Ideas:
1) At which point does Enid start viewing Seymour as her hero instead of someone to be mocked?
2) What did you think about Enid’s controversial contribution to her art class?
3) Did you relate to Enid and Becky?  In what ways?
4) Was the ending optimistic or not?

Interest Age: 16 and older

Challenge Issues: alcohol, profanity, sexual content

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the film and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on

• Try to get reviews of the film from teens who have viewed it.

Selection: I was familiar with the graphic novel and had wanted to see the film for some time.  I knew that it had become something of a cult film and thought it might appeal to certain teens.


Official Movie Website

Ghost World at

Trailer for Ghost World:


May 6, 2010 - Posted by | Movies |

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