Not Perishable

"......they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable" 1 Cor. 9:25..............finding imperishable things in perishable places

Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Friday, January 20, 2006

"Ghost World" and Existential Angst

I've never come across a more sarcastic, self-absorbed, mean.......yet endearing character than Enid (Thora Birch) from the 2001 film "Ghost World".

Enid and her friend Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) have just graduated from high school, but they're a tad different than their well-adjusted, middle class friends. Though they both are (in their own right) otherwise normal, fairly well-adjusted teenagers, they look at their future - college, job, marriage, babies and they see absolutely no hope.....zilch, nada, none. Enid has convinced Rebecca that if college, job, husband is all there is, then sorry, that's not enough - what's the point to life?

Enid's character, though miserable, is also very perceptive. She has figured out at 18 what most people don't figure out until they're much older - if this world is all there is, what do I hope for? What do I put my trust in?

The delights (where there are any) in Enid's life come from tormenting a poor soul named Seymour (Steve Buscemi) who she plays a cruel joke on, but then is intriqued by when he responds with even more indifference than she sees in her own life.

"Ghost World" makes no apologies about being a world without God. Enid's character clearly begins to search, but in her post modern world, she sees nothing to reach for other than a horizon in the distance that disappears into places unknown.......those are the places where she wants to go, but she has no idea why, or who has put this longing in her heart.

Is this film redemptive? There's no God, and no answers other than the "longing" that feels life-giving - there's something in Enid that wants something she can't see, but that's all she knows.

Can we find redemption in stories that are so hopeless that they beg the question - where is God? Why is there a longing in my heart, if I can't find what it desires? When a story is told honestly, i.e. - when the storyteller freely admits that the worldview portrayed in the story is empty and full of holes - are they inadvertently pointing to the "unknown God" statue that Paul points to on Mars Hill? (Acts 17)

"Ghost World" (R for language) is recommended for those who want to see a glimpse of the mind of the non-Christian who truly is seeking, and how they process a world that doesn't seem to have the answers to the the desires of their hearts. You'll wish you could find the nearest 4-law booklet and take Enid to Starbucks for a Latte and some answers. I found it to be time well spent with Enid - she encouraged me in evangelism. Am I being salt and light to the Enids out there?


Blogger blestwithsons said...

I will deal with you later! (bwa ha ha) But here is one thought... Just because we, from an enlightened perspective (enlightened as in possessing the mind of Christ and the wisdom of the Word) can find parallels or lessons in wordly movies... Does that therefore make the movies helpful, wholesome, and worthwhile in general? Does it outweigh - or indeed truly redeem the damage these movies may be doing to those who do not have the truth?

More later...

12:18 PM  
Blogger nhe said...

Hi Blest.....I can answer only from life-experience. In conversations with non-Christians, I have pointed to films like this (to support a point I'm making from Scripture - so that I'm presuppositional) and I have found that it has been a good method for keeping dialogue going and introducing concepts of grace and the things about the gospel that ressonate with the human heart.

If I embrace your line of thinking, then I would wonder why Christianity Today magazine has a Christian film critc who sees all mainstream movies, including most of the raunchy ones. What purpose does this serve if these films are just doing more damage than good to the body of Christ?

Is it worth it for him to have all that garbage going into his mind in order to be a good soldier for us?

I read very carefully about the content in movies before I see them. There are many I won't see. To be honest, I find an episode of "Home Improvement" with Pam Anderson as the "tool time girl" to be much less redemptive than many R rated movies I see.

After a film like "Ghost World", I don't think about how many times Enid said the "f" word. I'm rather thinking about things that are right, true, pure, lovely and praiseworthy.....not because the director intended for me to do that, but because redemption is implicit in any good story.

As I mentioned in your blog, If a movie was made about the Prodigal Sons, I don't think it would be wrong to visually depict the carousing of the younger brother - even though that wouldn't be a lovely site - because it's still a lovely story.

1:44 PM  
Blogger nhe said...

Correction Blest, I'm sorry - you asked if it redeems the damage done to non-Christians, my Christianity Today example referenced damage done to the body of Christ.

My goal on this blog is to only point to movies that I believe at least have the potential to be used very positively - for both the redeemed an unredeemed. There are zillions of movies that do not fit this criteria.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Libbie said...

To be fair, while there may well be a place for connecting with culture by using the mythologies and stories of the day - as you can so easily with many movies - it doesn't neccessarily follow that it's neccessary to watch the movies that give rise to these redemptive tales. I only saw ET for the first time two years ago - but I could have explained to you the redemptive themes in it waay before then.
If something is part of culture, it isn't always neccessary to dunk our heads in it to be aware of gospel hooks in it...

2:56 PM  
Anonymous blestwithsons said...

If I embrace your line of thinking, then I would wonder why Christianity Today magazine has a Christian film critc who sees all mainstream movies, including most of the raunchy ones. What purpose does this serve if these films are just doing more damage than good to the body of Christ?

Is it worth it for him to have all that garbage going into his mind in order to be a good soldier for us?

Well. Actually, if we weren't all so hooked on the medium and just gave it up - they could reassign that guy! And remember, I'm still in the matrix myself. (no smug self-righteousness here!) Even now I'm wondering if I've written myself out of the chance to watch Glory Road. (I love underdog sports movies and I love true stories!)

Oh - and by the way - I've never seen The Matrix. But as Libbie points out, you can know enough about a movie to use it in conversation without actually seeing it. ;-)

Although I think it's great you were able to use that movie to converse with non-believers, it doesn't follow that you wouldn't have been able to converse with them had you not seen the movie.

By the way, I really admire your obvious heart for evangelism. Not to mention your open-mindedness in visiting my blog in the first place despite our rocky start on Challies! Yer pretty cool, Dude!

7:07 PM  
Blogger nhe said...

Libby, what is wrong with watching a good movie, that I find redemptive? It is enjoyable.

I'm not understanding why this isn't a good thing.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Libbie said...

Libby, what is wrong with watching a good movie, that I find redemptive? It is enjoyable.

I suppose that would rather depend on the definition of good. I think 'Bound' is a really good piece of plotting, script-writing and cinematography. It's not something I'd call a good movie in another sense though, lol.
But the perspective you were bringing up was the usefulness of cinematic themes and so on in reaching others. I was just pointing out that we don't actually have had to watch certain movies to be aware of their impact on the general zeitgeist, that's all.

I'm not understanding why this isn't a good thing.

Did you mean you don't understand why enjoying the movies is a bad thing, or why watching the movies in the first place is a bad thing?

Anyway, this is all a bit moot, to be honest. You said that you are aware of what you find troublesome to view in terms of conscience and purity of mind, and I reckon as long as that isn't an excuse to just go as close to the 'line' as possible (which it most certainly is with some) you're free to do as you see fit.
My point remains, and it was somewhat broader than whether or not you should see movies you enjoy.. :-)

3:34 AM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

Hi! I have found you through an amalgam of blogs. We are all connected in one way or another in the blogosphere!

I too have seen "Ghost World." I first read the graphic novel and when it became a movie I was very happy. Aside from the wonderful acting and cinematography I loved this story because I really relate to the character Enid (I was a lot like her in high school).

The things I see: The characters are young. They are searching for themselves, the point of life, what to hope for, where to put their trust - just as you said. The fact of the matter is a lot of us do that exact same thing before we find God. Some are very lucky and find God at an early age and their whole lives are enriched because of it. But for those of us who aren't...It helps to have something to relate to.

If I were a parent (God willing someday!) I for one wouldn't allow a child to see this. But I would love to watch it with my teenaged daughter and then discuss it with her after. Because what comes after...All the angst - Is ultimately enlightenment and hopefully that of the Word.

I saw this movie right before I came to God. (I am going to be thirty this year). It made sense to me. Sure not everything is easy to watch...thematic elements and all that...But there is a point to story telling.

I am a writer and being such I am in love with all forms of storytelling. I too read all I can about a movie before I see it and I tend to steer towards movies like this for these very reasons. Not only for the possibility of redemption but I think it is important to be aware of what goes on in society. We don't have to be of it but how can we discern what's right or wrong if we aren't at least aware?

Personally I have a really hard time taking opnions seriously if they are of the mind that hasn't experienced. I don't think everyone has to watch TV or movies or read or listen to music, but how can you even talk about it or have a logical opinion when all you've done is read *about* something or heard about it from someone else?

I'm not trying to be overly critical or undermine the convictions of others. The written word is very hard in this manner and can often be misconstrued as mean. I hope I'm not coming across that way.

Sorry for taking up all of your space here. Suffice it to say I will continue reading your blog. God Bless.

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

One more thing, I forgot to tell you! In light of "Existential angst," another good movie that discusses the whole redemption/truth seeking thing without Christian/biblical overtones is "I heart Huckabees." It might be a little hard to watch for some, but if you can get past the language and a VERY brief, non-nude sex scene it is AMAZING. Having come to God through the study of philosophy myself I truly related to it.

11:18 PM  
Blogger nhe said...

Thanks Jen - I will put "I Heart Huckabees" in my Netflix queue. Been busy, but should have some new posts soon.

Isn't that openning scene in "Ghost World" cool? What kind of music is that?

1:04 PM  
Blogger Mrs. JC Johnson said...

Yes! I do like it! That is "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" by Mohammed Rafi. It is from about 1966. It is an old surf/big band sound that was really popular. You might have found that kind of sound in some old James Bond films.

I love the whole soundtrack to this movie, being that I'm a huge old blues and punk rock fan!

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