Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: Ghost World

By Mike Everleth ⋅ August 3, 2001

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 disaster, I’ve been trying to make sense of the event, which I would assume is not unlike most Americans and many of us here specifically in New York City.

Some of us have been driven to find a deeper spirituality and patriotism, while others have taken this time to praise the heroic firemen and police officers who risked, and way too many lost, their own lives to save others. These are noble and necessary pursuits, not only in this time of tragedy, but always. And while my heart and spirit goes out to all of America, I have found it necessary to understand this tragedy from the perspective of those that committed it. Just as we can understand Hitler and the Nazis from a historical perspective, it’s important for me to understand Osama bin Laden and his associates.

It was pointed out to me by someone I care about that my previous musings on this matter, in which I tried to analyze the Sept. 11 holocaust through the eyes of the terrorists, might have come across as though I was sympathizing with them. But I am just a clumsy writer who produces this website without the benefit of any input or editing from anyone. I also wrote that piece the day after the attack, basically when I was still in shock and hadn’t had time to process the emotions I was going through but had a need to get something, anything, out about the event.

Since those first few days (it’s been about 2 weeks now), I tried to find some good books to read about the history of Afghanistan; the country America is now theoretically at war with (I say “theoretically” because so far we haven’t engaged in conventional warfare). I know nothing about that country other than the Soviet Union was at real war with them for a decade, but I have no idea why. While I haven’t done any exhaustive research, I have so far been unable to find a good Afghanistan history book. What I did find was Gerald Butt’s informative and intriguing book, THE ARABS: MYTH AND REALITY, which begins with an interesting quote:

“[T]he West, in its dealings with the Middle East in general, is driven by forward-looking pragmatism, Arabs tend to see current developments through the prism of history.”

That little quote gave me much to think about while trying to learn about this culture of which I’ve been previously completely ignorant. For example, on 60 MINUTES the other day Ed Bradley was interviewing an Arab scholar/leader who exclaimed that the Sept. 11 attack was probably just an American conspiracy to sully the Arab the people.

Ed Bradley responded in shock to that statement, as though he couldn’t believe his ears. But having read my way through the first quarter of Butt’s THE ARABS, it’s, sadly, very understandable why an Arab might have an opinion that seems so radically twisted to our Western minds.

The Arabs got seriously fucked around with by the British and the French all through the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th, which created an intolerable situation that United States has since inherited.

I am not trying to lay blame here on the actions of past British and the French governments. But reading THE ARABS has made me realize how extremely privileged in America we are to have such a bold history. Practically from birth, we are taught about the necessity of overpowering the yoke of tyranny and oppression, the way our forefathers did in 1776. We are excessively proud of our tenacious pursuit of freedom, and it is that beautiful characteristic that has helped us, as a culture, get through this terrible crisis.

It’s quite possible that the terrorists who committed this awful crime sought to demoralize our country with a monstrously evil act, but like so many other of our enemies, they underestimated this power that Americans have to charge forward no matter what. We have suffered tragedy before and we will probably suffer tragedy again, but we’ll always figure out how to work the positive out of any negative situation no matter how immensely horrible it is. That is our blessing.

Although I’ve been talking about deadly serious situations here, I can’t abandon the format of this website. So, here goes the movie review portion of the essay (seems kind of idiotic doesn’t it? But that’s always been my point about the idiocy of movie reviews).

I was originally going to base my review of GHOST WORLD around the fact that this film was the closest representation, in any creative medium, of the world in which I myself live. I’ve always felt that I’ve lived in a parallel universe from the rest of the world, not really fitting in anywhere or with anyone. And it just made me really happy to see that I’m not the only one who’s felt that way.

Finally, I’d like to end with an interesting excerpt of a poem by Nazik al-Mala’ika I found in THE ARABS. I hope it doesn’t seem blasphemous and anti-American to close with an Arab poem at this time, but just forget for a moment that I mentioned this was written by an Arab and imagine that it could have been written by anyone in the throes of horrible despair. And if you ever come across someone who may be feeling these emotions, think about what you can do to make that person’s life a little brighter. No human being deserves to feel this way ever:

We are echoes from a ghost world.
People have dropped us,
Night and the past have slipped from us,
Fate has forgotten us.
Drained of longing, drained of hope,
We have no memory, no dream:
Our calm faces have lost their color,
Lost their spark.