Searching for something filling in a world of fabrication.
The review by Dan Hobart represents a starting point in the analysis of the underlying content of this film. The graphic novel on which this movie was based is described at Amazon as “One of the best-selling and critically-acclaimed graphic novels of all-time.” This suggests a resonance within the psyches of at least a few people. So what is the appeal of the graphic novel and later of the movie?
The ideas expressed by Mr. Hobart are certainly valid, and I would not discount any of his insights. Yet I sense he has only scratched the surface of the many layers contained in this seeemingly simple and straightforward story. A couple of situations I would focus upon are (1) the final scene in which Enid rides away on the bus (2) the dynamics of Enid’s father, his girlfriend Maxine, Seymour, and Seymour’s girlfriend Dana.
The bus is symbolic, of course, and could be termed the “magic bus.” Enid’s frustrations with reality failing to meet her needs cause her to regress to a magical worldview. The bus symbolizes new possibilities but doesn’t really exist, cannot exist. It can only exist in the dream world, the Ghost World. “The bus no longer stops here” is a statement of immutable fact; that the bus does arrive is as impossible as the sun rising in the west. So where does the bus take Enid? To a place where people believe in magic? Will she join a strange cult and ultimately end up drinking the purple kool-aid?
As for the underlying dynamics of Enid’s father and Maxine, Seymour and Dana: the tension is palpable as Enid’s father averts his eyes from her when he enters her room. There are unresolved Oedipal issues, sexual tensions between father and daughter. Seymour comes to represent the father, Dana and Maxine are vaguely similar in appearance. The sexual encounter between Seymour and Enid is a displacement from the father-daughter repressions. Maxine, the father’s woman, will be moving in, thus Enid is pushed away from the father. Likewise, Enid considers moving in with Seymour, pushing away Dana.
The morning after sex with Seymour, Oedipal guilt surfaces in Enid. She ultimately de-sexualizes the relationship, just as she had successfully repressed her sexual feelings toward her father.
Really, this film is a treasure trove of latent content.
Excellent thoughts. I just saw the film for the first time on video. I think you are right on. However, alternately, I thought of the bus issue, more directly as, and maybe too simply, Death. The old man was “waiting to die” and join those whom had left him behind. By contrast, Enid, like other young suicides, feels abandoned by those around her and knowing that she will never fit in decides to “get on the bus”. Of course both of are thoughts are handled in deft metaphor that in the hands of a hack like Tarintino we might have been treated to a scene of Enid’s scalp flying through the air and sticking to the door a refrigerator. Any thoughts Barry
The title refers to the reality of the film (a reality much like the world of today). The world of the film is a ghost of a world that was once (and still has the ability to be) full of life and authenticity, but is currently only filled with superficiality and fakery. Hence, all the historic fakes (Wowsville, Sidewinder/western store, Blueshammer, Cook’s Chicken, posthumous punk rock, etc.) that are used to convey the concept of how the world and most of its inhabitants have died and become ghosts of themselves.
There are two types of people in this ghost world: 1. typical morons who have no understanding of life/authenticity (they can be considered dead and ghosts of themselves), and 2. people whose third eye has been squeegeed clean and notice/understand life (they can be considered alive and not ghosts). The main three people shown in the film who are of the latter group are Enid, Seymour and Norman. However, while these three are much more intelligent than the ghost of the world, they are not infallible. They can easily be knocked-off their path of understanding and become ghosts. This is where the bus comes in. It represents this path/journey/life of understanding that people whom are alive and notice life travel on. The scenes at the bus stop are even shot so that certain letters of the words on the bench (“Not in service”) are blocked-out by Norman to spell “NOTICE LIFE”. If the people who notice life make one wrong choice or allow themselves to become involved with one ghost person/thing, they will be knocked-off the path of understanding, and will become a ghost of themselves. Norman, the old man on the bench, knows this. He’s been on the path of noticing/understanding life for a long time now. He’s probably taken many blows that could’ve knocked him off the path, or he may have even been knocked-off once before, but he’s determined not to let it happen again. That’s why when Enid tells him that the bus is no longer in service, he doesn’t even look at her and says, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
(to be continued)
Seymour (“see-more”) was either on the path of understanding but received a number of blows before Dana finally knocked him off, or he may have been knocked-off before he met Enid. Dana finally knocking him off seems the most probable when considering the blue jeans (a.k.a. “the pants”) she gave him. A present from a ghost that he is involved with, Seymour’s blue jeans are exactly like the pants on the sidewalk near the bus stop. Anyone who wears a pair of those pants is practically saying “I’m a ghost,” which is exacly what Seymour became when he got involved with Dana. The reason the pants are on the sidewalk is because some unknown guy wearing the blue jeans who had been knocked-off the path was running to get back on the path (running to the bus stop), and he took the pants off and threw them down right before he re-boarded the bus/path. Maybe in the future, Seymour will end up like the unknown man and throw his blue jeans to the sidewalk before getting back on the bus, and will have a true understanding of the path and what must be done to stay on it.
Enid is the youngest of the three and has a great deal to learn. She is almost knocked-off the path by fucking Seymour’s Ghost and does not become fully conscious of the path until she sees Norman get on the bus. She does, however, come close to gasping the concept of the path when she is in the café with Rebecca immediately after buying the record. She tries to explain why Seymour is kind of cool but Rebecca doesn’t understand. The exchange “Yeah but…you know what I mean.” ”Not really.” is extremely important. It shows the huge difference between Enid and Rebecca. The cover of the film shows this difference as well: both girls are standing there, but Enid appears as though she understands while Rebecca tilts her head in confusion. Another interesting thing to notice and a good example of how Enid still has a lot to learn is the way she contradicts herself throughout the film. Her first contradiction is when she is annoyed by how her father tells her to “guess” something and she subsequently tells Rebecca to “guess” something. The second contradiction is when she thinks Seymour’s roommate is weird for holding on to the mongoose and she subsequently holds on to Goofy Gus and a dress. Her third contradiction is the fake “wow” she gives Seymour when buying the record and the real “wow” she gives him when they discuss the record.
Some other interesting things to notice:
-Enid & Rebecca find the fake diner (Wowsville) by following the PATH of the satanists. As if traveling on the ghostly path is the wrong/evil thing to do. The blues song “Devil Got My Woman” could also be referring to a guy who is bummed out because his woman is a ghost (the satanists got her).
-The Weird Al guy is a fake Weird Al Yankovic who is a fake musician of the musicians he spoofs.
-There is a lot of talk about death/dying, which is the same as becoming a ghost.
-Enid’s friend, Asshole, says he is going to get a job with some big corporation and fuck things up from the inside, which is exactly what Seymour did (with the Coon Chicken Inn painting).
-The first line in the video store is “In a world where nothing is what it seems…”
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