Where'd You Go, Thora Birch?
January 23, 2014 9:21 AM   Subscribe

"I always wondered what happened to Thora Birch. So I went to LA to find out."
posted by mippy (139 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
...by the early noughties, a very different look was emerging for young female celebrities, one based more on Paris Hilton than Kurt Cobain.

Bit of a broad brush stroke there.
posted by 0 answers at 9:33 AM on January 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


I couldn't tell who was more all over the place, Thora Birch or the writer. I did find out that Thora Birch's parents were in porn movies including Deep Throat so there is that I guess.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:38 AM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


The linked article soft-pedals the story behind the Dracula firing.

She comes across as someone who may now be suffering mental illness, and the complete lack of boundaries of porn-actor Dad couldn't have helped. I wanted to look away from the FPP article as I was reading it (much like the Amanda Bynes slow motion trainwreck coverage towards the inevitable end, and especially since Birch is essentially a private citizen at this point), and I hope she gets the treatment she deserves. In the meantime, kudos on her for taking back some of her power and doing her own damn thing.
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:38 AM on January 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


I thought it was her dad's behavior that made the phone stop ringing, more than anything? This conversation is woefully incomplete without asking about that, it seems.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:38 AM on January 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


I hated American Beauty and hated her in it.

The article doesn't say a word about how she's actually supporting herself now- don't interviewers care about that sort of thing? Is this just too working class of a question to ask?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:38 AM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


I always had a big soft spot for Thora, Ghost World and American Beauty are both really excellent performances BUT if you are 28 and getting fired from a job because your dad is there with you and threatening people... might be time to move out.
posted by Cosine at 9:38 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


My read of that is that she hit the double snake-eyes of (a) being hard to work with while (b) not being a huge box office draw.

In short, actors, like other freelance workers, need to be two of the following three: (a) pleasant to work with, (b) produce amazing deliverables, or (c) constantly dependable.
posted by bswinburn at 9:39 AM on January 23, 2014 [35 favorites]


From IMDB it looks like she gets work here and there, just nothing with the profile of her early stuff. A shame really, I loved her in Ghost World.
posted by Artw at 9:40 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


This article is interesting to a point but it doesn't really feel like it goes anywhere. It's all "what" and no real "so what," and then it just kind of seems to stop.

Also this:
In her heyday, Birch was a lovely, natural presence on screen, the foil to her glamour-puss contemporaries, such as Mena Suvari (who also, less surprisingly, faded away)
is kind of a needlessly dickish sideswipe at someone who's not even the subject of the piece.
posted by dersins at 9:41 AM on January 23, 2014 [32 favorites]


bswinburn: I think just (b) actually.
posted by Cosine at 9:41 AM on January 23, 2014


I think American Beauty was dislikeable for many reasons, though perhaps I was in a cynical mood when I rewatched it.

I feel sad that that gorgeous little Lindsay Lohan turned into an over-tanned, non-ginger alleged-druggie who isn't doing anything decent now, but Birch's disappearance is sadder for me, as she's the same age as me*, and she reminded me a lot of Winona Ryder, another quirky young actress who was clearly talented and then somehow fell through the cracks in Hollywood terms.


* For about five years, the most common chat-up line I got in bars was 'Have you seen that film Ghost World? You know who you look like?'
posted by mippy at 9:43 AM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


As for being dificult to work with or child stardom induced "mental illness", I dunno. I've certainly been hearing a lot about Shia Labeouf lately, and if that's the standard... I dunno, is he that big a draw?
posted by Artw at 9:44 AM on January 23, 2014


It's funny to me how convinced I was after Ghost World that Birch was going to go on to a long, fruitful career and we'd never hear from Scarlett Johannsen again.
posted by COBRA! at 9:44 AM on January 23, 2014 [36 favorites]


And yeah, that prompted me to look up Mena Suvari too. I was a Jane, not an Angela, but I always assumed that someone a) pretty b) in a widely-discussed film would have gone on to do a lot more.
posted by mippy at 9:45 AM on January 23, 2014


Wes Bentley, another American Beauty star that faded (though he had a role in The Hunger Games), was the subject of a documentary a few years back called My Big Break that I hear was quite good.
posted by Kattullus at 9:47 AM on January 23, 2014


Wow, that A/V Club article linked by LooseFilter above is pretty damning about her Dad ... the worst is that he disputes that he was the cause of her getting fired, and instead claims the director was dissatisfied with her performance. Yeah, way to help, Pops. There's obviously more to what's going on with her but this alone would be enough explain the tatters of her career: I don't see how she could possibly have one with a millstone like him around her neck.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:48 AM on January 23, 2014


The thing is, almost all of us in entertainment careers end up somewhere like this eventually. Whether at 25 or 40 or 65, we fall out of step, our ideas don't sync with the demands of the marketplace, people's attention shifts elsewhere. It's not a grand tragedy, it's just a basic fact of being in the system. I don't know much about Birch's story, but I do know how painful it is to be young and trying to do the right thing by yourself while also fighting the destructive counter-forces of the industry. At a certain point, it's OK to say "This is just too much for me to handle" and to spend time - whether a year, five years, a decade, the rest of your life - learning to look after your own needs.

Just last night, I was reading this interview with Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins about the recording of their album, Blue Bell Knoll, and this quote seems apropos to me:
"Imagine if since you were 15 you'd been in an abusive relationship and you'd been ripped off, and you had been forced to do things you didn't want to do," he says firmly. "Imagine if you got away from there and someone said, 'Hey, do you want to go back?'"
I have my own fannish moments of being annoyed at Elizabeth Fraser for cancelling Cocteau Twins reunion shows and delaying her album by a decade and generally refusing to be creatively present in my life, but if she's a happier person and has her own thing going on, who am I to argue with that?
posted by mykescipark at 9:49 AM on January 23, 2014 [22 favorites]


Another factor in Birch's disillusion with Hollywood was that she was a witness to its casualties, having worked with Brittany Murphy and Brad Renfro.

Whoa. I somehow missed the news about Renfro.
posted by brundlefly at 9:50 AM on January 23, 2014


Also - promise I'll stop thread-sitting in a minute, I've got a sore eye and waiting for it to stop stinging so I can do actual work - I was thinking that maybe Hollywood for young stars is a lot like football. Kids get signed to a club/an agent in their mid-teens or even before, they get paid substantially more than their peers might see in their lifetime (Premier League players are on about £140k a week - a couple of films would probably pay as much) and they get famous. I couldn't handle that at thirty-one, never mind at sixteen or eighteen. There's not a lot of room between, say, Paul Gascoigne and someone like Lohan or LaBoeuf.
posted by mippy at 9:50 AM on January 23, 2014


Wes Bentley didn't so much fade away after American Beauty, it's more that he was devoured by heroin.
posted by elizardbits at 9:51 AM on January 23, 2014


the destructive counter-forces of the industry

My problem with this piece is that it has a pretty clear agenda of wanting to ascribe Birch's career problems to a set of stereotypical "counter-forces of the industry" (she refused to play their game, man!) but that all seems actually rather irrelevant to the real reason he career has stalled, which seems much more specific and local: her loopy father and her inability to cut her ties to him and her own temperament problems.

It's annoying to read a piece which so obviously had a predetermined thesis which actual reporting was not going to fundamentally alter.
posted by yoink at 9:54 AM on January 23, 2014 [20 favorites]


Whoa. I somehow missed the news about Renfro.

For some reason lots of people missed it, included the Oscar's "PeopleWeLostThisYear" reel.
posted by Cosine at 9:55 AM on January 23, 2014


She was named after the Norse God Thor?!? I love that.

That was a hard article to read. Too much smoke and mirrors and redirections and not enough substance.
posted by jillithd at 9:55 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


For some reason lots of people missed it, included the Oscar's "PeopleWeLostThisYear" reel.

Well, that's sad on multiple levels.
posted by brundlefly at 9:55 AM on January 23, 2014


It's funny to me how convinced I was after Ghost World that Birch was going to go on to a long, fruitful career and we'd never hear from Scarlett Johannsen again.

In a just world, this might have happened.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:58 AM on January 23, 2014


If you can't find a way to stay centered and push through all the assholishiness you're going to encounter from people who -- at that moment -- have power over you, you're not going to make it in Hollywood. It's at least somewhat true in many industries, but it goes to eleven there. This was probably going to be a challenge for her anyway, but I think her crazy father tipped the balance.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:04 AM on January 23, 2014


Birch was in the 2000 debacle of a Dungeons & Dragons film, from which only Jeremy Irons emerged with his career unscathed. (Irons acted like he was the only one in on the joke and left no scenery unchewed.) I think you can partly blame that.
posted by graymouser at 10:04 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


In a just world, this might have happened.

Scarlett Johannsen has more than proved her genuine abilities as an actor on multiple occasions since Ghost World (in which she was terrific, as it happens). There's a pretty hefty dose of sexism in a lot of the resentment that gets thrown at Scarlett Johannsen: "she's sexy, therefore she must be a talentless bimbo!"
posted by yoink at 10:08 AM on January 23, 2014 [41 favorites]


In a just world, this might have happened.

But then who would play Black Widow?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:11 AM on January 23, 2014


I don't know about the whole "Hollywood wants a different thing now" thesis of the article.

They just went from Thora Birch to Ellen Page (whose own replacement is due any day now).
posted by Sys Rq at 10:12 AM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


a needlessly dickish sideswipe at someone who's not even the subject of the piece.

Yeah, it's unfortunate that people seem incapable of writing articles about young women in Hollywood without bringing up other tangentially related women just to slag them off. The worst part of it is that it's so commonplace as a false stereotype, as in "women won't enjoy reading this article unless we are casually nasty to another woman in it." The anti-Bechdel, I guess.
posted by elizardbits at 10:14 AM on January 23, 2014 [17 favorites]


Scarlett Johannsen has more than proved her genuine abilities as an actor on multiple occasions since Ghost World (in which she was terrific, as it happens). There's a pretty hefty dose of sexism in a lot of the resentment that gets thrown at Scarlett Johannsen: "she's sexy, therefore she must be a talentless bimbo!"

Well, that's just like, your opinion, man.

While I do happen to think she is sexy. To me... she reads lines like cardboard. A few exceptions sure, but usually it's the same monotone, wooden, uninflected, emotionless delivery, she was actually laughably bad in The Avengers, which one would think to be not so tough a roll to pull off.
posted by Cosine at 10:14 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


True or false: Jeremy Irons
posted by mippy at 10:14 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Remember Kevin Spacey? What happened to that dude?
posted by mullacc at 10:17 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


My guess is you'll never hear from him again.
posted by 0 answers at 10:18 AM on January 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


True or false: Jeremy Irons

His shirts are usually pretty crisp, so I'm thinking "true."
posted by Iridic at 10:19 AM on January 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


True or false: Jeremy Irons

His shirts are usually pretty crisp, so I'm thinking "true."


Another fallen star who is forced to do his own ironing.
posted by mullacc at 10:20 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Jokes I should have gotten on the first read through.
posted by Cosine at 10:22 AM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


she was actually laughably bad in The Avengers

Oh, you're a Voight-Komp test? 'Cause my iris is dilating.

Remember Kevin Spacey? What happened to that dude?

Doing quite well in the Netflix series "House of Cards."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:22 AM on January 23, 2014


On an unrelated stone the "bone church" used as a set for Jermey Iron's most evil villain lair of evil in the D&D movie is much smaller and pokey in person ( but does have chandeliers made of human remains so there is that)
posted by The Whelk at 10:23 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like this quote from Wikipedia:
However, in his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris disliked Birch's character of Enid and remarked: "I found Enid smug, complacent, cruel, deceitful, thoughtless, malicious and disloyal".
Um, yes? As in, her performance was effective? I'm pretty sure it's the Wikipedia editor who's missing the point of acting with that "however", not Sarris, but still, pretty funny.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:23 AM on January 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Kevin Spacey?

He tripped on his dog. Thankfully, he was still able to run a theater in England and then star in House of Cards.


possibycreatedafiancetoo
posted by Freecola at 10:25 AM on January 23, 2014


Well, that's just like, your opinion, man.

I'm not sure what objective metric you'd be able to bring into such an argument. This is, by definition, a matter of opinion. But it's also a case where the majority of opinion rules. Here, at least, vox populi is vox dei. That is, if most people find an actor convincing, moving, engaging in a specific role then that actor is doing a convincing, moving, engaging job. If you happen not to convinced, moved, engaged then that is saying something about you, not about the actor's ability to reach people-in-general. I think the fact that Scarlett Johansson was regularly part of the Oscar-nom discussion for her performance in Her (a performance which could not in any way lean on her looks) is as close as you could get to 'objective' proof that she is an actress with the skills to convince, move and engage large numbers of informed film viewers.
posted by yoink at 10:25 AM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Remember Kevin Spacey? What happened to that dude?

Managing the artistic direction of the Old Vic theatre in London until recently and playing a critically lauded run of Richard III

The real question is did the remake if The Women actually ruin the carrer of everyone in it or does it just feel that way?
posted by The Whelk at 10:26 AM on January 23, 2014


It seems that Brad Renfro's death was quickly forgotten because Heath Ledger died seven days later.
posted by good in a vacuum at 10:26 AM on January 23, 2014


LooseFilter: "I thought it was her dad's behavior that made the phone stop ringing, more than anything? This conversation is woefully incomplete without asking about that, it seems."

Maybe, but that would seem a bit odd... in a world where asshole quasi-celebrity dads are everywhere, and his antics would draw free press attention to movie projects.

They kept giving work to train wrecks like Lindsay Lohan*, after all.

(*Absolute truth: I couldn't remember her name, so I googled "train wreck celebrity".)
posted by IAmBroom at 10:26 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


They kept giving work to train wrecks like Lindsay Lohan*, after all.

Actually, they don't. She's almost unemployable other than stunt casting in TV shows and no-budget independent films. The recent film project she's announced ("Inconceivable") is something of a vanity project.
posted by yoink at 10:30 AM on January 23, 2014


But then who would play Black Widow?!

Topher Grace.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:34 AM on January 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


yoink, they don't anymore, after literal years of making that mistake over and over again.

Point is: it took a helluva lot more fuckups from LL than Thora to trash her career.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:34 AM on January 23, 2014


The proof of Johansson's acting not being wooden and robotic is certainly her performance as a machine. In other news McDonald's is amazing food, just look at how many Big Macs sold.
posted by Cosine at 10:36 AM on January 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


if most people find an actor convincing, moving, engaging in a specific role then that actor is doing a convincing, moving, engaging job. If you happen not to convinced, moved, engaged then that is saying something about you

That you have better taste than most people, is my guess.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:37 AM on January 23, 2014


The proof of Johansson's acting not being wooden and robotic is certainly her performance as a machine. In other news McDonald's is amazing food, just look at how many Big Macs sold.

Yes, you have grasped the point of Her brilliantly. It is a story about how a man falls in love with an off-putting, robotic, mechanical voice with no hint of a real personality behind it. Clever you for being the only person to really "get" the movie.
posted by yoink at 10:40 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Scarlett Johanssen turned into the real life Hollywood version of the character she played in Ghost World, and I can never forgive her for that.
posted by maggiemaggie at 10:41 AM on January 23, 2014


Scarlett Johanssen turned into the real life Hollywood version of the character she played in Ghost World, and I can never forgive her for that.

Wasn't her character just "not the jerky one"?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:44 AM on January 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


Scarlett Johannsen has more than proved her genuine abilities as an actor on multiple occasions since Ghost World (in which she was terrific, as it happens). There's a pretty hefty dose of sexism in a lot of the resentment that gets thrown at Scarlett Johannsen: "she's sexy, therefore she must be a talentless bimbo!"

When Avengers came out there were a lot of people who said Black Widow was just eye candy and had nothing to do, which is bizarre because I felt she was one of the more important and interesting characters.
posted by brundlefly at 10:45 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


(As hard as it is to judge something like that in an ensemble.)
posted by brundlefly at 10:45 AM on January 23, 2014


yoink, they don't anymore, after literal years of making that mistake over and over again.

Actually, her fall from grace was pretty quick. Her last "major" Hollywood movie would have been what, Prairie Home Companion in 2006? That's just two years after her biggest success of all, in Mean Girls. She makes a few fairly marginal films after that, but she's off anyone's idea of an A list amazingly quickly.
posted by yoink at 10:48 AM on January 23, 2014


(While it's kind of silly to make this about ScarJo in Avengers, as far as I'm concerned the only problem is that Black Widow was the wrong character for Whedon to place in an adventure about big mighty exploding fisty armies from space. It's not that she was wrong for the character, it's that the character was out of place in the story. She was great in her solo scene with the Russkies but that's more the kind of assignment her character would actually get.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:49 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I always wondered what happened to Thora Birch.

Being Christina Ricci?
posted by gyc at 10:50 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Good Lord, did they really forget she was in Hocus Pocus????
posted by discopolo at 10:51 AM on January 23, 2014


she was the awful little child!
posted by The Whelk at 10:52 AM on January 23, 2014


When Avengers came out there were a lot of people who said Black Widow was just eye candy and had nothing to do, which is bizarre because I felt she was one of the more important and interesting characters.

But her ass was in a frame for two seconds, surely she's just eye candy!

Never mind that the opening scene for Lost in Translation was a long lingering look at her ass, but she got critical acclaim for that movie.

People are odd.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:53 AM on January 23, 2014


Weirdly, Ghost World is kind of predictive of how they turned out. Johanssen's character got over the weary sneery pose -- she was never as into it as Enid anyway -- knuckled down and did what she had to do to get her life started and Enid didn't, drifting off onto a metaphorical bus to nowhere. That's an interpretation that's unduly harsh on Birch, but I do get a sense that she's unable to entirely connect with the world outside herself.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:58 AM on January 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


While I do happen to think she is sexy. To me... she reads lines like cardboard. A few exceptions sure, but usually it's the same monotone, wooden, uninflected, emotionless delivery, she was actually laughably bad in The Avengers, which one would think to be not so tough a roll to pull off.

Can we all at least agree that her album of Tom Waits covers is terrible?
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:10 AM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Can we all at least agree that her album of Tom Waits covers is terrible?


Yes, and the most blatant "see I'm cool" media product of recent years.
posted by Cosine at 11:13 AM on January 23, 2014


Since someone's already posted a link to Cracked, I'll re-run this one and suggest that folks consider what all that would be like with the added drama of Overinvolved Stage Dad.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:14 AM on January 23, 2014


Can we all at least agree that her album of Tom Waits covers is terrible?

We can not.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:14 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I really liked Lost In Translation the first time around, watching it recently my main impression, for the first half at least, was that these people were crap at staying in an awesome hotel in an awesome city and I would be way better at it so they should STFU. I dunno, I don't get to travel much these days, maybe it has made me bitter.
posted by Artw at 11:14 AM on January 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Always thought it was kinda mean of Sophia Coppola to go and make the most successful Jim Jarmusch film ever.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:19 AM on January 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


they don't anymore, after literal years of making that mistake over and over again.

Point is: it took a helluva lot more fuckups from LL than Thora to trash her career.


Nah, not so much. For one thing, their situations are a bit different. Birch's fuckups had a direct impact on her work from the beginning. Lohan spent a while being mostly unstable off the set, but not being unusually troublesome when actually showing up to work. That started to change, though, and she stopped getting cast in big movies when it did. She was all over the news with her personal issues, but it only took a couple of troubled shoots - Herbie: Fully Loaded and Georgia Rule (when an executive released an open letter to her about her behavior, which isn't a common thing) most notably - before she stopped getting work outside of indies and stunt casting like Machete. So she managed to burn through most of her good will in about two years.

For comparison, Birch's breakthrough was American Beauty, and her career peaked with Ghost World. One gets the sense that her troubles were already happening during that time, since she was fired from Election because she basically wouldn't take direction. And then Ghost World came out, and then she fell off. So about two years.

Also, Lohan's name had more shine on it than Birch's did, which may have given her a little leeway. In general, Hollywood will drop you as soon as you're more trouble than you're worth, though the bar for "more trouble than you're worth" is either really high or really low, depending on your perspective.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:22 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: kind of a needlessly dickish sideswipe at someone who's not even the subject of the piece.
posted by davejay at 11:22 AM on January 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


The thing I really enjoyed about Lost in Translation is that it really just nailed the feeling of being lonely in a strange country.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:23 AM on January 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


And to think, all those years I thought she was named after Thora Hird.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:24 AM on January 23, 2014


Regarding Lost in Translation, I absolutely loved it the first time I saw it, having just spent six months working in England and feeling very lost and lonely.

But I recently was traveling in Asia and thought I'd watch it again and I just thought What the HELL is your problem you idiot?
posted by maggiemaggie at 11:32 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Really? Nobody knew where she went? She is notoriously impossible to work with because of her ever-present creepy-ass dad. There's no mystery. It is common knowledge.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:33 AM on January 23, 2014


It blows my mind (actually I guess it makes sense) that so many of you have seen, but completely misunderstood, Ghost World. Enid and Seymour are the only sane, decent people in a misanthropic world otherwise populated entirely by severely hollow, almost sociopathic parodies of human beings with absolutely nothing going on inside any of their heads at any time. "Drowning in assholes," to borrow from the film's sort-of-hopeless-coming-of-age cousin.

Clowes' intent may have been a little different, I guess, but at least for the movie, anyone who thinks Rebecca (whose name I literally had to just look up, her character is so uninteresting and living-dead) is the better of the pair deserves to be condemned to live in the film.
posted by byanyothername at 11:45 AM on January 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Pretty bad article. I don't feel particularly informed about the subject or, at least, I don't know that I believe the uneven construction/description.

--She comes across as someone who may now be suffering mental illness--
Thank you doctor for your professional character assassination assessment.
posted by peacay at 11:45 AM on January 23, 2014


I always thought Aleksa Palladino was the co-star Scarlett Johansson unfairly surpassed.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:50 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


This thread is as all over the place as the article.
posted by neuromodulator at 12:01 PM on January 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


prize bull octorok: I always thought Aleksa Palladino was the co-star Scarlett Johansson unfairly surpassed.

Speaking of rewatching old films... one film I loved when I saw it in the theater but suspect I wouldn't like as much if I rewatch it is The Adventures of Sebastian Cole, starring among others Aleksa Palladino. It was an important film for me when I was 18, but I suspect it wouldn't hold up very well.

posted by Kattullus at 12:03 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


It blows my mind (actually I guess it makes sense) that so many of you have seen, but completely misunderstood, Ghost World. Enid and Seymour are the only sane, decent people in a misanthropic world otherwise populated entirely by severely hollow, almost sociopathic parodies of human beings with absolutely nothing going on inside any of their heads at any time. "Drowning in assholes," to borrow from the film's sort-of-hopeless-coming-of-age cousin.

This is, I think, a sort of accurate reading of the comic as well, and it was the reason I fucking hated the comic, which I read as it was coming out, back when I was not entirely unlike Enid in my general affect, ability to make friends and approach to fashion. It just seemed so goddamn smug - here I was, actually living the Enid life, as miserable as a mouse in clockwork, and even I had the mother wit to see that I wasn't surrounded by assholes and severely hollow, almost sociopathic people. They were just people I didn't like very much or have very much in common with, and some of that was on me.

I was also a bit skeeved out by Clowes writing this comic about young girls - there are way the fuck too many indie hipster art-producing white dudes who really, really like to tell stories with young woman protagonists, and they are virtually always in crucial ways totally wrong and erasing of actual gendered experience.
posted by Frowner at 12:17 PM on January 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


It blows my mind (actually I guess it makes sense) that so many of you have seen, but completely misunderstood, Ghost World. Enid and Seymour are the only sane, decent people in a misanthropic world otherwise populated entirely by severely hollow, almost sociopathic parodies of human beings with absolutely nothing going on inside any of their heads at any time.

It might be worth considering whether it's possible that you are the one who has misunderstood. (Because, frankly, you've got it entirely backwards.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:18 PM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


In terms of acting ability, Scarlet Johansson is on par with, say, Ben Affleck: she is overwhelmingly adequate. I've never walked away from a movie thinking she made it any better or worse. I expect Scarlett Johansson will be remembered as one of Hollywood's most sufficient performers.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:19 PM on January 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


It just seemed so goddamn smug - here I was, actually living the Enid life, as miserable as a mouse in clockwork, and even I had the mother wit to see that I wasn't surrounded by assholes and severely hollow, almost sociopathic people. They were just people I didn't like very much or have very much in common with, and some of that was on me.

But that's the point! Enid is so narcissistic that she doesn't realize that.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:20 PM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Enid and Seymour are the only sane, decent people in a misanthropic world otherwise populated entirely by severely hollow, almost sociopathic parodies of human beings with absolutely nothing going on inside any of their heads at any time.

Seymour absolutely, but Enid? A lazy, self-regarding monster. Yeah, she briefly turns his life around, but initially as a hoot -- her reading of his personal ad was dripping with mockery -- and then she promptly destroys him with a devastating one-two punch delivered from a core of utter self-centeredness, leaving him infinitely worse off than she found him. Yeah, other characters suck: her art teacher is a halfwit and a coward, for example; but that doesn't mean Enid isn't a horrible misanthrope with nothing else to prop up her self-regard.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:21 PM on January 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


such as Mena Suvari (who also, less surprisingly, faded away)
is kind of a needlessly dickish sideswipe at someone who's not even the subject of the piece.
Scarlet Johansson ad infinitum.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:27 PM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]



But that's the point! Enid is so narcissistic that she doesn't realize that.


I don't know if that's really what we're supposed to take from the comic. (I haven't seen the movie since I didn't like the comic much.) I think we're supposed to see Enid as flawed and juvenile but broadly correct in her worldview. That's certainly how everyone I knew was reading the comic; it was definitely viewed as a sympathetic portrait of a particular type of person and milieu.

I'd have to look at it again - we probably have a copy kicking around the house somewhere, because if you have more than two people who were between, say, seventeen and twenty-five in the early/mid nineties and who had any pretension to hipsterdom, there will be at least one copy of Ghost World amongst them. (I lost my giant crate of comics several moves ago, but really the sad loss was all the old Love and Rocketses.)
posted by Frowner at 12:49 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I miss Thora. Her role as Enid solidified her and that character as my romantic ideal.

It feels great to say that out loud.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 1:00 PM on January 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


I was also a bit skeeved out by Clowes writing this comic about young girls - there are way the fuck too many indie hipster art-producing white dudes who really, really like to tell stories with young woman protagonists, and they are virtually always in crucial ways totally wrong and erasing of actual gendered experience.

I think that's a fair enough charge, but Clowes seems to have been pretty open Enid being just a more-socially-presentable mouthpiece for his own ideas and attitudes. His work up to that point had generally featured a succession of transparent author stand-ins (male, naturally) to the point where he'd begun to call himself out on it.
posted by anazgnos at 1:02 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


It blows my mind (actually I guess it makes sense) that so many of you have seen, but completely misunderstood, Ghost World. Enid and Seymour are the only sane, decent people in a misanthropic world otherwise populated entirely by severely hollow, almost sociopathic parodies of human beings with absolutely nothing going on inside any of their heads at any time.

Honestly I think the movie splits evenly between holding up Rebecca or Enid (and to some degree Seymour) as the focus for audience identification, rather than holding Enid to be 100% right as you suggest. Enid is right about how shitty the world is, but she's also monstrously self-involved and causes a lot of damage to other people. Rebecca is pragmatic and doing the right thing for herself, but Enid is justfiably hurt by her change of attitude. Seymour is sort of the middle path between the crossroads Enid and Rebecca are at: he's compartmentalized enough to take a shitty sell-out job for a soulless company that has whitewashed itself, but clings tightly to the music & art that reminds him of who he is. Rebecca decides to adapt, Enid decides to fade away.

The movie is too up-front with Enid's self-absorption to conclude that her universal condemnation is totally justified, but it's still poignant when she takes that bus.
posted by anazgnos at 1:11 PM on January 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


The thing I just don't understand is why there is even this sense of an a-list. Hollywood recycles the same limited starting lineup so much that I can barely identify with the characters in movies because they are completely overshadowed by the celebrity recognition. The BBC likewise seems to focus on a very small roster of constantly recycled actors. It's as if they believe in some sort of winner take all power law of acting and thus make it so.
posted by srboisvert at 1:18 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


SJ was fantastic in Manny & Lo. Like Mischa Barton was amazing in Lawn Dogs.

And then they went through puberty and became bland.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:19 PM on January 23, 2014


To follow-on...I don't see Ghost World as being about the only people with souls in a world of cardboard cutouts, but about how hard the oppressive conformity of our culture makes it to see other people as anything but cardboard cutouts. The real-estate lady that Seymour dates is awful, sure, but Zwigoff also shows us how she's really hurt when he breaks up with her. Almost nobody who Enid tramples on really deserves it - her stepmom, her father, etc. Those people are the butt of many of the movies jokes, but I think, very deliberately, only up to a point.

(OK, enough with the thread-sitting from me, too)
posted by anazgnos at 1:22 PM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Discussions like this always make me think of this comic. Thora Birch isn't mentioned, but Scarlett Johansson is.
posted by graymouser at 1:36 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


the sad loss was all the old Love and Rocketses

we misssssssses them, the lovessss and the rocketsssses
posted by threeants at 1:47 PM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


The message I took from Ghost World was that if you make a habit of alienating people then you could very well wind up depressed and alone. Was that naive of me?

I still think we need stronger protections (or an outright ban) for child actors.
posted by ODiV at 1:50 PM on January 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


Darn you people, now I have to go and rewatch Ghost World, like I had nothing else I wanted to get done.
posted by tyllwin at 1:57 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


It might be worth considering whether it's possible that you are the one who has misunderstood. (Because, frankly, you've got it entirely backwards.)
Seymour absolutely, but Enid? A lazy, self-regarding monster.
Man, you guys are the art class in the film. Enid and Seymour both are clearly intended to be sympathetically portrayed as sort of thoughtful people who don't really want to be living in the culture that they do, who appreciate things and have ways of looking at the world that others don't, etc. The degree of misanthropy is a little bit bordering on the Jhonen Vasquez (FILTHY STINK PIGS), but it's a comedy type deal and I give it a pass for that. There's enough there about other people's feelings being valid in their way that I don't see it as "really" as misanthropic as it appears to be, but the shallowness of the other characters is certainly not just Enid being snotty.

The movie isn't about Enid having a positive effect on Seymour's life; she sort of does, but ultimately doesn't. They're good for each other in the sense that they're both people who are probably doomed by their society to irrelevance, humiliation and misery, but their relationship is more about Seymour having an effect on Enid. By the end of the film, she's let go of a lot of her narcissism (which is partly just the culture she lives in--all the other characters her age are generally as narcissistic--and partly the angst of being a young person who is at odds with your world) and grown a lot as an artist and a person. It's a coming of age story in which there is no acceptable, happy adult role for Enid. Her faults are that 1) she's a kid and 2) she has an acute awareness of the preceding sentence.
To follow-on...I don't see Ghost World as being about the only people with souls in a world of cardboard cutouts, but about how hard the oppressive conformity of our culture makes it to see other people as anything but cardboard cutouts.
Exactly! It's about growing up at odds with society, and seeing other people as caricatures, but ultimately still not finding any resolution with or a place in society. So in the end, the protagonist has a greater sense of awareness of others, but is still doomed to being unable to find a meaningful connection or role. It's sort of the perfect coming of age story for me, and many in my generation, I think.
posted by byanyothername at 1:58 PM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


The message I took from Ghost World was that if you make a habit of alienating people then you could very well wind up depressed and alone. Was that naive of me?
That's almost it; I think the message is more that you could very well wind up depressed and alone, full stop.
posted by byanyothername at 2:01 PM on January 23, 2014


The thing I just don't understand is why there is even this sense of an a-list.

Given $x, a producer wants to hire the best actors they can, and "best" means a solid track record of audience pull (due to talent, looks, "it", doesn't matter), reliable performance, and being pleasant to work with. That's really no different from any other business -- businesses hire the best people they can afford -- but the entertainment business also has to take audience pull into account, whereas your local grocery store doesn't. The people paying for these films don't really care whether you're sick of the actors or not, so long as a sufficiently-sized audience isn't sick of them yet (and once they can't pull an audience, they won't work as A-listers any more.)
posted by davejay at 2:01 PM on January 23, 2014


Enid and Seymour both are clearly intended to be sympathetically portrayed as sort of thoughtful people who don't really want to be living in the culture that they do,

Enid is capricious, judgmental, and a bit of a bully. She's thoughtless around others in a way that genuinely hurts the people she cares about. She's dishonest with her friends and makes use of a blatantly racist image, not because of its artistic value, but to show up another girl in her class.

She is a character I find deeply sympathetic, but she's pretty awful a lot of the time.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:02 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


She's immature, though, and struggling to fit into a culture that encourages the kind of pettiness she falls into. Her obsession with Josh, for instance, is just childish; but she realizes that, after a point. She's not a monster; her meanness is more of a product of the kind of culture she lives in, and an overreach in struggling to fit in.

Mostly it's the suggestion that Rebecca, Seymour's girlfriend, (/roommate) etc. are meant to be the sympathetic, audience-identifying characters that gets my heckles up, because I think they sort of are monsters, in the service of the film. They barely escape being caricatures of the kind of shallow, thoughtless, privileged people the movie uses to represent the middle class white US. It's like coming away from 1984 thinking O'Brien had it all figured out just because Winston seems a lot more fucked up.
posted by byanyothername at 2:12 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't know where it stands on my list of all time favorites, but Ghost World is the only movie I can recall enjoying so much that I immediately rewatched it as soon as it was over.

Funny that Thora Birch was originally cast in Election (I had no idea), as following Ghost World I assumed Birch's career would follow a similar trajectory to Reese Witherspoon's (critically acclaimed performance in an indie film leading to mainstream megastardom). I too wondered why instead she seemingly fell off the face of the Earth between then and now (the only time I heard anything about her in the interim was when she was starring in an "inspirational" Lifetime movie of the week).
posted by The Gooch at 2:19 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


My only point of contention is that Enid's various targets are, as much as they are clueless, boorish, dumb whatever...they are ultimately allowed a sliver of humanity and sympathy in their portrayal. Enid's dad is not just a hapless, inept boob who is incapable of understanding his daughter, he's also justifiably concerned and caring. Her hated stepmother isn't like, shrieking at her to get out the house, she just makes Enid uncomfortable with her presence and violates her sphere. The stepmom sticks her neck out to get Enid a job, and there's no sense that she's doing it out of self-interest or that we're supposed to think she's horrible just for having the temerity to offer Enid a job we know she'd hate - she like the dad is genuinely trying to help.

Admittedly this is sort of only popping into my head right now as I think about it, and I haven't watched it in a few years, but it seems to stick out as a major point.

And to bring it around, to echo many, yeah, I totally crushed on Thora after Ghost World and really looked forward to a long, productive iconoclastic career so the whole thing has been really disappointing.
posted by anazgnos at 2:23 PM on January 23, 2014


Thanks to all who clued me in on the timeline of LL's decay. At the time, it seemed endless, watching this young person self-destruct in the news (which, for some reason, I cared more about than when any of a zillion others did it).

And with it, the insights into the Hollywood production industry. Not nearly as vapidly attention-seeking as the press makes it out to be - but then, a months-long to years-long, multi-hundred-million-dollar project is unlikely to be as simple as Hollywood is made out to be. Usually.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:48 PM on January 23, 2014


I find this thread - about Thora Birch - somewhat ironic as most people are more interested in talking about Scarlett Johanssen or a movie they both did over ten years ago (ten years? yeesh). Kind answers the question posed by the piece, in a way.
posted by smoke at 2:54 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Enid should have had further adventures like in the Little Enid Doll box art.
posted by Artw at 2:56 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


ten years? yeesh

13
posted by Cosine at 2:58 PM on January 23, 2014


I find this thread - about Thora Birch - somewhat ironic as most people are more interested in talking about Scarlett Johanssen or a movie they both did over ten years ago (ten years? yeesh). Kind answers the question posed by the piece, in a way.

Well, that's partially a side effect of their careers. If Birch had had one, there'd be more to discuss.

To me, the difference between the two is their ability to convincingly inhabit a characters. Birch is (was?) convincing in a way that ScarJo is not. It's not like I think she's a talentless bimbo, (I work in theatre and see a lot of very pretty actresses who are also very smart), it's that Johannson is more of a "movie star" in the way that Tom Cruise is, they have looks and charisma, but mostly seem to play versions of themselves, as contrasted with actors like Ian McKellan who subvert their own identity to that of the character.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 3:31 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Seymour absolutely, but Enid? A lazy, self-regarding monster.

wow, I don't get this at all. She's a smart kid in a boring town who tries to make it interesting and mysterious. She's upset when people don't live up to the potential she imagines for them, and she's dissatisfied with her own life because she doesn't know what she wants to do or who she wants to be. I think she's actually unaware of the pain she can cause people who actually care about her, not because she's narcissistic, but because she still has a lot of growing up to do. Being immature doesn't make you a monster.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:08 PM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ghost World came out just as I was graduating High School and it hit me pretty hard, like " yeah you snarky above it all faux cynical arrogant kid? This is what you look like when you act like that, you look like an immature little shit hurting people for no reason. Cut it out and maybe you'll get away from this vicious little cycle."

Also I am the exact same age as Scarlett Johansson so I like to think there's a connection there.
posted by The Whelk at 4:17 PM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Maybe growing up and becoming less narcissistic are the same thing.
posted by ddd at 4:21 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


They just went from Thora Birch to Ellen Page (whose own replacement is due any day now).

Then maybe they can play sisters who both have broken dreams.

BEST MOVIE EVER
posted by lumpenprole at 5:00 PM on January 23, 2014


There's a pretty hefty dose of sexism in a lot of the resentment that gets thrown at Scarlett Johannsen: "she's sexy, therefore she must be a talentless bimbo!"

Same thing done to Brad Pitt though, who, I think has had a far more interesting career.
Birch, I thought, was sexier in Ghost World than Johannsen. She was certainly much more watchable and interesting and brought depth to her character.
And had she had some better luck I suspect she would have made some more interesting movies.
Johannsen, I don't know if she's taken any real risks in any of her roles. Not that they haven't been done well, but...
Birch seems like she would have done something akin to Jeffrey Goines in 12 Monkeys. Haven't seen that from Johannsen.
That's not sexist, not even necessarily a slight at Johnnsen's career choices.
Look at Adam Sandler. Guy has proven he has at least some chops but he gets (financially) kicked in the ass every time he does anything but the 'angry man-child' schtick.

Perhaps more of a case of "it might have been," vs. someone who's established.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:07 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I find this thread - about Thora Birch - somewhat ironic as most people are more interested in talking about Scarlett Johanssen or a movie they both did over ten years ago

Yeah, what's up with that?

We really ought to be talking about Now and Then. I just went looking for info on the one that wasn't Thora Birch or Christina Ricci or Gaby Hoffmann, and, well, shit. Ashleigh Aston Moore died of a heroin overdose in 2007.

Kinda weird that didn't come up in this article.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:48 PM on January 23, 2014


This thread reminds me of Scott Eric Kaufman's analysis of how the character of Enid was changed and softened in the Ghost World movie, compared to the comic.

I don't think she comes off well in either medium, to be honest.
posted by misfish at 6:04 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


They just went from Thora Birch to Ellen Page (whose own replacement is due any day now).

YES! Between these two and Aubrey Plaza (and from some angles, Rose Byrne), I am half-convinced that there's a factory somewhere spitting out copy upon copy.
posted by artemisia at 6:32 PM on January 23, 2014


I can't believe some of you saw The Avengers. LOL.
posted by dobbs at 6:44 PM on January 23, 2014


Eh wot? It was a good movie. Well, it was a fun movie anyway.
posted by Justinian at 6:51 PM on January 23, 2014


"I can't believe some of you saw The Avengers. LOL."

And all 3 Transformers! And The Wolverine! And, and .... popcorn!!

"Paging Dr. Infradig, paging Dr. Infradig."
posted by Chitownfats at 6:55 PM on January 23, 2014


blue suede stockings: She comes across as someone who may now be suffering mental illness

Whoa, how did you get this assessment? Am I totally missing something in the article? It wasn't super well-written but nothing jumped out to me as "wow this person is mentally ill." The stuff about her dad is weird and I can see how it could cause some neuroses, but mentally ill? That's a pretty serious charge to just be throwing around based on a shitty article.

This thread has me really depressed because I was suppose to go watch Ghost World at a theater today and maybe win some really neat prizes, but instead I am staying home so I can save money, which works out in the long run, but I really wanted to see it in a theater.

I haven't seen the movie or read the comic in about four years each (I typically do both around the same time) so I can't get too in-depth on the discussion right now, but I feel like I had a different interpretation of the movie (again, I'll have to read the comic again soon, as I think the characters were a little more intense in it, but maybe it's because of the way my internal monologue reads it, which says more about me I guess).

My takeaway from it is really vague. Everyone's situations are subjective! Enid obviously grew up in a household where her parents got divorced and her father began dating someone else that she didn't like. I think a big part of her character is her father trying to act like a mother to her, but Enid doesn't want him to, or feels conflicted about it due to societal roles, or something, I don't know. Enid doesn't have to take care of anyone, people are trying to take care of her. Rebecca, on the other hand, lives with and has to take care of her grandmother. I forget what happened to her parents (or if it even mentions it). Rebecca is mature and may feel upset and exhausted at having to be a "grown up" before she is officially a grown up, and this probably causes issues with her and Enid because Enid is a stubborn brat who has been taken care of for so long. I can't remember who in the comics are what they based Seymour on but I agree with someone's assessment above, being that Seymour is living in two different worlds: one where he has his very specific interests in black music and really enjoys learning about the blues culture and racism in general, and the other world where he sees people as not genuine. Seymour comes off as a very sort of black-and-white character: something is either genuine or it's fake. Blueshammer isn't the blues, it's poser music, whereas the blues artist he goes to see in the club that everyone is talking over is genuine. They're all trapped in a really shitty, "fake" town together with seemingly no way out.

I think Enid has a really serious problem of thinking everything is against her, while simultaneously believing that Rebecca will get everything she wants because she's a somewhat "normal" woman. Enid is partially right, she tries to do things properly and does end up getting screwed (her art project gets an F because people find it offensive, which then ruins her chances at the college scholarship), but she also screws things up for herself because her worldview is so narrow (she loses her job at the movie theater in a day because she can't get over the minutiae of it). I think Enid is just really classically depressed. She is capable of doing things, but feels trapped by people around her, trapped by her surroundings, and traps herself. She's self-destructive.

But I need to watch the movie and read the comic again because these assessments of mine are very obsolete and based on terrible memory. I may have even jumbled up things between the comic and the movie up there.
posted by gucci mane at 7:04 PM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]



Whoa, how did you get this assessment? Am I totally missing something in the article? It wasn't super well-written but nothing jumped out to me as "wow this person is mentally ill." The stuff about her dad is weird and I can see how it could cause some neuroses, but mentally ill? That's a pretty serious charge to just be throwing around based on a shitty article.

She comes across as a little erratic, bitter, and stuck in a loop of recrimination for the state of her career. Her reaction to the Dracula firing question is very odd and sort of gibberish, and the author makes a big point about her unsettling unpredictability of mood or tone, even as he otherwise treats her mostly with kid gloves. There's a gap between "doesn't seem totally healthy" and "mentally ill" but I gather that's what people were responding to. Then again, she does say something about "well, my life is very good and I've been very lucky" so she does seem capable of stepping back and reflecting.
posted by anazgnos at 7:44 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


They just went from Thora Birch to Ellen Page (whose own replacement is due any day now).

Even if that's true (which I don't think it is, I feel like they have distinctly different onscreen personalities—no way Thora Birch would do an Inception or be able to pull off the initial part of Hard Candy), that still leaves a good six or seven years of absolutely no one filling that sort of role.

[lots of Ghost World discussion]

I never read the comic, but Ghost World is one of those movies that I think I really like only because I happened to watch it at a time where I felt like I could sympathize with Enid. But even then, I felt like there was a tension between Enid's position of "everyone else is fucked, I'm the only sane one," and Rebecca's position of "yeah we did some cool, dumb shit in high school, but I'm moving on with my life" that's supposed to carry over to the audience's perception of Enid. I think the movie intentionally asks you to both sympathize and criticize Enid's choices in life.

I personally saw Enid as someone who, in the end, never figured out how to make the leap to adulthood. She hangs on to arcane cultural artifacts to build an identity ("this is so clearly a late-1970s punk outfit!") and stubbornly tries to continue the way she always has while the people around her try to evolve and grow. Aimee Mann's song of the same name (inspired by the original comic) states this more plainly, which might explain why I feel this way.
posted by chrominance at 7:56 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


This thread reminds me of Scott Eric Kaufman's analysis of how the character of Enid was changed

Man talk about misreading...his whole thing rests on Enid being terrible for calling Weird Al a "loser", then indulges in tedious frame-fucking (so to speak) to argue that Clowes is implicitly endorsing her behavior, when it's flatly obvious Enid is calling Rebecca a "loser" for ordering something as bouge (and theme-inappropriate) as a "Pasta Special".
posted by anazgnos at 7:58 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Scott Eric Kaufman's blog post may be misreading (I rather enjoyed it), but it did lead to this rather insightful comment:
That said, I think you are missing, by focusing on one formal element, the point of the scene, which is that Rebecca is thinking about actually ordering one of the "specials" (paradoxically, because that's what the "normals" order), instead of a food that can be eaten ironically like onion rings (you know, real “diner” food… I’ll have a PBR with that). So, sure, you can close read it to pick up the undercurrents (which are valid), but the prevailing current is that Enid is losing Rebecca, she throws “loser” on the table, in front of Rebecca, with Alan in the background, as if to say “if you leave this, you will be out there with him, and I will cut you the same way we cut “them”. We get there by way of a lot of subtle conversational reversals that show Enid agitatedly trying to play their specialness game to the nth degree, and Rebecca half heartedly going with it, moving from her earlier fear-of-leaving motivation into a cagey dance of less fear-more-concern-for-Enid, and (low level) passive aggressiveness against her for holding her back (calling her on the Car Wash comment is this - there is disgust there). Rebecca is getting ready to check out, and this is her going through the stages. So the next panel after "Loser" is Rebecca indicating that she’s back in line for right now and not trying to rock the boat (or pop the bubble), after Enid’s threat. It won’t last long.
Sorry for the long quote but I thought it was such an interesting read of a more subtle dynamic going on between the two characters and how tenuous their "bubble" world is.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:09 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


chrominance: I personally saw Enid as someone who, in the end, never figured out how to make the leap to adulthood. She hangs on to arcane cultural artifacts to build an identity ("this is so clearly a late-1970s punk outfit!") and stubbornly tries to continue the way she always has while the people around her try to evolve and grow.

I agree with this and would also like to point out that Seymour is the same way. He's constantly clinging to cultural artifacts, albeit ones that may be a bit more important and nuanced in worldview, except he's assimilated into adult life and feels troubled by disingenuousness around him.
posted by gucci mane at 8:32 PM on January 23, 2014


What’s newsworthy or insightful about this piece? “I always wondered what happened to Thora Birch” is nowhere near a good enough reason to expose said person to lurid discussion* about her looks, talent, family, future prospects, and state of mind, particularly when she appears - from what can be determined about the last from this basically nasty & exploitative piece - to the author to be in a state of transition. It’d be one thing if the subject were actively promoting something right now, or if her work were being picked up in some other way. Hunting her down for curiosity’s sake, to publish that, is just shitty.

(*in the comments to the Guardian piece, not necessarily here)

I hope Thora finds her voice and fights for it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:37 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Blueshammer isn't the blues, it's poser music,

No one disses Blueshammer!

I think "The Wrestler" epitomizes the trouble loss of fame must be. At least for some people. Y'know, you were Randy "The Ram" now you're the guy working the deli counter.
But that's only a problem if you have a problem working the deli counter.
I think the entire premise of the piece assumes Thora Birch is somehow missing because she's not an 'A' list celebrity...
(on preview, cotton dress sock has it, also, wow is hadleyfreeman defensive.)

"But I'm done, I'm done. People wanted me to be not fine. A lot of it was bullshit."
Seems to be the quote.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:45 PM on January 23, 2014


This article about Thora Birch mainly reminded me that Christina Ricci should have had a larger career
posted by knoyers at 8:55 PM on January 23, 2014


Blueshammer is the PT Cruiser of music.
posted by Artw at 8:58 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


This article about Thora Birch mainly reminded me that Christina Ricci should have had a larger career

Ricci seems like she's rebounded better than Thora, despite having as much of a down patch. Maybe Speed Racer and Bucky Larson aren't anything to point to, but it seems like at least her phone still rings when people are trying to make money.
posted by anazgnos at 9:09 PM on January 23, 2014


Man talk about misreading...his whole thing rests on Enid being terrible for calling Weird Al a "loser", then indulges in tedious frame-fucking (so to speak) to argue that Clowes is implicitly endorsing her behavior, when it's flatly obvious Enid is calling Rebecca a "loser" for ordering something as bouge (and theme-inappropriate) as a "Pasta Special".

I think you are misreading Kaufman's point. He is not saying that Enid is calling Al a loser, he is saying Clowes is meta-textually calling Al a loser through the placement of the words in the frame:

Apply the same logic of placement to the fifth panel's "You loser!" and you have a speech bubble that doubles as a caption, in effect branding the server what the pair's entitled renaming of him already indicated they thought him to be. The difference here is that it's not Enid who chooses where her remarks are placed on the page, but Clowes, and if Enid's partly culpable for Rebecca's question, Clowes is wholly guilty for Enid's "captioning" of the server here.
posted by misfish at 9:19 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Whether Hollywood, Corporate America or working in government, it's all the same. Those who don't conform and shut up with their opinions (even if they are right and everyone silently agrees), will never work in this town again? Why? Because you make the stupid look incredibly stupid, those who are doing things wrong incredibly inept, and in the end, those in power are threatened by your power---to be honestly good to the core.

So...whatevs. She needs to decide what she wants to be. I would suggest with that attitude and thinking, she needs to be independent and behind the scenes (having her own talent agency, producing company, etc.). She can't work well FOR others, not necessarily with others.
posted by stormpooper at 9:57 AM on January 24, 2014


Whether Hollywood, Corporate America or working in government, it's all the same. Those who don't conform and shut up with their opinions (even if they are right and everyone silently agrees), will never work in this town again?

Perhaps. On the other hand that's also the consoling story that insufferable assholes and raving loonies tell about themselves to explain their failures. When the only source in this piece is Birch herself, it's not really possible to judge. The few cases we do know something about, though (those involving the father) have nothing to do with Birch being some daring iconoclast who refuses to kowtow to the Industry line--they're just a sad case of someone not being able to cut business ties with a bullying and somewhat unhinged family member.
posted by yoink at 10:10 AM on January 24, 2014


Man, her personal website (thora.org) looks like something straight out of The Geocities!
posted by dogbusonline at 10:57 AM on January 24, 2014


I think Ghost World is one of those movies that people project their own adolescence on to. You either identify with Enid's situation and thus see her as ultimately sympathetic or you don't feel about the world the way she does and so you see her as narcissistic.
posted by spicynuts at 2:35 PM on January 24, 2014


I think Ghost World is one of those movies that people project their own adolescence on to. You either identify with Enid's situation and thus see her as ultimately sympathetic or you don't feel about the world the way she does and so you see her as narcissistic.

I think you're right about readers projecting their own adolescence, but it's not so black and white. You're forgetting about those of us who (mostly) grew out of, and deeply regret, our Enidness, and still struggle every day to keep a lid on it.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:53 PM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


This article about Thora Birch mainly reminded me that Christina Ricci should have had a larger career.

I think Jena Malone's the dark horse contender nobody thought would go the distance. She's talented, reads as brainy and complex, and has built a really interesting career mixing up all sorts of work. I wonder if she's working so consistently because she delivers on-screen while being easy to work with.

I guess there can be only one late-20s/early 30s actress who can play brainy, complicated and possessing of a sense of humor? Which is a pity, because I loved Ricci's committed, turned-up-to-11 depiction of what was essentially the Don Draper of the air in Pan Am a few TV seasons ago.
posted by sobell at 3:31 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I had often wondered where Thora vanished to in the years since D&D, and in my head that movie had killed her career.

That was an absolutely awful article though. It seemed very rambly, and I wonder if the interview over lunch was just that painful that the journo struggled to pull together some kind of cohesive narrative.
posted by Mezentian at 6:47 PM on January 24, 2014


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