Friday, 8 February 2013

Friday Feature - Graphic Novels for Female Readers 1: Ghost World

Maybe I've spent too much time with guys but it always makes me laugh when Rookie references Steve Buscemi and all the comments shout SEYMOUR! rather than MR PINK!

Who is Seymour? Seymour is a character from the 2001 film Ghost World starring Thora Birch and a young Scarlett Johansson as two bored teens floating around a completely average American town in that hinterland between high school and college. My friend Gina recommended the movie saying it was just like me. I watched it and was like, "You think I'm like Seymour?!" and she was like, "No...I thought you were like Enid...!" at which I blushed.

Ghost World the film is equal parts humorous equal parts snarky but with a bittersweet ending. It is essential viewing for any young woman uncertain about her future. Not because it will give her all the answers but because it will help her know she's not alone.

The main reason Gina recommended Ghost World to me was because it was based on an indie comic of the same name written by Daniel Clowes in 1997.

If you found the humour of Ghost World the film too dry and the characters of Enid and Rebecca too hard to empathise with then you will not like Ghost World the graphic novel as it is completely unfiltered. Though humour is there the tone is much darker, coming from the girls' sardonic view of the world and playing on cringy situations you know you shouldn't really laugh at. Think Happiness.
When together Enid and Rebecca have a tendency to be cruel, extremely potty mouthed, bitchy, judgemental and melodramatic. Separated they manage to be deceitful whilst displaying a vulnerability you cannot ignore or not understand even if only on a basic level. Sorry to ruin it for you boys but they are real teenage girls, warts and all.
Just like in the film Enid is playful and over the top, acting out to both get attention from 'normal' Rebecca (who she sees as her superior) whilst also trying to steal all attention away from her. It is an almost poisonous relationship as the more the girls stay together the more they realise it cannot last and that it won't be the end of the world when it doesn't. They judge each other as much as they judge those around them. They betray and lie as much as they support and defend. They begin to notice each other's flaws and as they grow into two different women they realise that they are flaws they are not willing to live with. As with their personalities it is a depiction of a relationship warts and all.
One of the differences between the film and the graphic novel some Rookie fans will shed a tear at is that there is no Seymour. By that I mean there is no single character called Seymour but there are various male characters who if put together make Seymour (mostly Bob Skeetes and Bearded Windbreaker). The story structure as a whole is much more episodic than in the film. It is a series of events, mostly unrelated, that when put together tell the story of two young women struggling and on the most part failing to find meaning and hope in their small town lives. Yet these events are not without charm or pathos. In one chapter Enid spends two pages telling Rebecca how great Daniel Clowes is (extremely surreal to say the least) only to meet him and find he is a weedy perv (perfect 4th wall joke).
Despite the episodic nature of the storytelling the girls' often mean jokes are not without consequence. The results of a prank call to Bob Skeetes make Enid feel incredibly guilty and are the begin of her realisation that she does not like the woman she is becoming if her world doesn't change. It are such bouts of conscience that make Enid the more likable of the two girls.
The artwork is simple and unfussy without looking lazy or ugly. No one is glamorous in Ghost World. Like everything else they are warts (in some cases giant tumours) and all. It is silly but one of the biggest pleasures I got from the artwork was the use of mint green.

In summary Ghost World is a story that finds its beauty in unflinching honesty and the recreation of the everyday. It is as brutal as it is wistful but has both in equal measure. There are no magic powers or happy ending. Only the future and what you make of it.

Next week: We continue exploring graphic novels I think all young female comic book fans should read by looking at the short lived DC imprint Minx.


  1. I love that song/video! As well as the movie. Great post.

  2. Thanks! I hope you will enjoy my choice for next week too then!


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