Social Anxiety in Movies: Ghost World

social anxiety-Ghost World

Ghost World is about two teenage hipsters, Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), struggling to navigate the real world after their high school graduation. When Enid plays a prank by responding to a personal ad in the newspaper, she and Rebecca meet Seymour (Steve Buscemi), an older man whom they view as a pathetic socially awkward loser.

Ghost World [2001]

  • Directed by: Terry Zwigoff
  • Screenplay by: Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes
  • Based on the graphic novel by: Daniel Clowes
  • Starring: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi
  • Script

Psychoanalysis: (Warning: Full Spoilers Ahead!)

What begins as a prank turns into a weird fascination for Enid, and she starts spending time with Seymour, who is about double her age. She realizes he’s not as much of a “loser” as she originally thought and begins to feel sorry for him.

SEYMOUR

You think it’s healthy to obsessively collect things? You can’t connect with other people so you fill your life with stuff… I’m just like all the rest of these pathetic collector losers.

Seymour appears to enjoy collecting old records and other things, but deep down he yearns for a romantic relationship. Many people with social anxiety live a life of solitude but wish for love.

ENID

No you’re not! You’re a cool guy, Seymour.

SEYMOUR

Yeah right… If I’m so cool, why haven’t I had a girlfriend in four years? I can’t even remember the last time a girl talked to me.

ENID

I’m talking to you… I’ll bet there are tons of women who would go out with you in a minute!

SEYMOUR

Oh, right…

ENID

No really… I guarantee I could get you a date in like two seconds…

SEYMOUR

Good luck…

Seymour shows signs of low self-esteem, which is associated with social anxiety. The majority of his social anxiety seems to apply to females. Some people only feel social anxiety with members of the opposite sex whom they’re attracted to, while other people (such as myself) feel social anxiety with just about everyone.

Enid and Seymour go to a bar to find a woman for him…

ENID

What about her? Would you go out with her?

SEYMOUR

I don’t know, what kind of question is that? I mean it’s totally irrelevant because a girl like that would never be caught dead with me…

Again Seymour displays low self-esteem, thinking he has no chance with a beautiful woman. Much of social anxiety comes from this kind of mindset where we pre-reject ourselves and deem it’s not even worth trying to talk to certain people.

Seymour sees a nice-looking woman in the bar, but he’s afraid to approach her…

ENID

Well, offer her a seat! You want me to do it?

SEYMOUR

Wait a minute! Hang on! Jesus, I gotta think of something to talk to her about. No! No…

Another symptom of social anxiety is worrying about what to say ahead of time.  If we’re in a conversation, we worry about what to say next, rather than being in the moment. It’s difficult to act and speak in the moment if our mind is not focused on the present moment.

They leave the bar empty-handed, so to speak…

SEYMOUR

Now I remember why I haven’t gone anywhere in months. I’m not even in the same universe as those creatures back there. I might as well be from another planet.

ENID

We just need to figure out a place where you can meet somebody who isn’t a total idiot, that’s all.

I can relate to feeling like a different species from certain extroverted people, especially in places like loud bars. The problem is in thinking we need to change and act like that in order to have friends and a relationship. But not all people are like that. We just need to find someone more like-minded, or who at the very least accepts us for who we are.

SEYMOUR

Look, I really appreciate your help, Enid, but let’s face it, this is hopeless.

ENID

It’s not hopeless…

SEYMOUR

Yeah, well it’s simple for everybody else – give ’em a Big Mac and a pair of Nikes and they’re happy! I just can’t relate to 99.9% of humanity.

ENID

Yeah, well, I can’t relate to humanity either, but I don’t think it’s totally hopeless…

SEYMOUR

But it’s not totally hopeless for you… I’ve had it. I don’t even have the energy to try anymore.

With social anxiety comes a feeling of hopelessness—that we’ll never be able to overcome it, so why try. But that is just another false negative thought. No matter how old you are or how long you’ve struggled, there’s always hope.

SEYMOUR

You should make sure you do the exact opposite of everything I do so you don’t end up like me…

ENID

I’d rather end up like you than those people at that stupid bar… At least you’re an interesting person… at least you’re not exactly like everybody else…

Because of low self-esteem, people with social anxiety tend to overlook their positive attributes. And even what we perceive to be negative attributes, may be seen as positive by others.

Enid eventually helps Seymour find a girlfriend, and he develops a romantic relationship with her, proving all his negative beliefs and hopelessness wrong. However, as Seymour spends more time with his new girlfriend, he spends less time with Enid. Feeling jealous, she seduces Seymour and they have sex. Seymour then dumps his girlfriend in hopes of starting a relationship with Enid, but she decides to move on with her life and leaves town.

Judgement:

Ghost World primarily focuses on the character of Enid, who is a social outcast but definitely does not have social anxiety. She’s willing to say anything to anyone. Although that may be more of a fear-based defense mechanism rather than true confidence. Enid is afraid to show any weakness to others, but beneath her tough exterior is a fragile interior, struggling to give and receive love. Seymour, on the other hand, shows some clear outward signs of social anxiety, though his condition is not a major aspect of the film. Still, Steve Buscemi does a nice job of portraying an introverted character who is socially awkward.

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One thought on “Social Anxiety in Movies: Ghost World

  1. Pingback: Social Anxiety in Movies | Tim Barry Jr.

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