Film & TV

Character Study: Thora Birch Tells Enid Coleslaw’s Ghost Story

Film & TV

Character Study: Thora Birch Tells Enid Coleslaw’s Ghost Story

As Enid Coleslaw (Her father, lamentably, had their family name changed from Cohn shortly before her birth) in the 2001 film adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ cult graphic novel, Ghost World, Thora Birch delivered with deadpan perfection some of the movie’s most scathing zingers (“He’d better watch out or he’ll get AIDS when he date-rapes her,” and “We graduated high school—how totally amazing,” among many others). Now 29, the Golden Globe-nominated actor, who has embodied iconic characters in films such as Now and Then and American Beauty, checks back in on her career-averse, blues-loving, cat mask-wearing misanthrope to find out how she’s been holding up. Spoiler alert: Not great, and yet better than ever.
A few years after Enid C.’s departure from her hometown, she realized that she really, really hated physical labor. She was even more enraged by the realization that it was something no journey, no new city, and no other person could relieve her of.

When she ran out of the $20,000 her father had put aside for what he had hoped would be a start-up company, she found herself stranded below the most liberal of southern borders. The healthiest paying jobs in the region were absolutely off-limits to her, no matter how creative she got when filling out her many job applications. At last count, she had gone through about 250 of them.
Among the notifications of rejection were those alerting Enid to the fact that she was combative, aggressive, potentially delusional, and disrespectful to authority, something that always managed to elicit a chuckle from her. Despite having been raised a fun-loving, full-throttle bastion of ambition, somehow it escaped Enid’s sphere of understanding that some qualities, found particularly in women, were considered to be revoltingly inappropriate among men and women alike—no matter what part of the globe they came from.

While holding down a temporary position, her unit manager bellowed that she had better educate herself in human interaction before applying for anything permanent. She gleefully, but with a hint of animosity, retorted that she had assumed she was “selected for her creativity in the first place, you communistic drip of fly shit!” (Enid was struck ill the next day and was never informed as to when it would be appropriate for her to resume her field duties with that particular company.)

While employed at her next job, one that she considered to be puke-inducing, but also one that, under the circumstances, she absolutely had to stick with, Enid resumed a long-abandoned hobby: hiding in libraries, the type that can be found on any street corner. One night, when she was wrapped in mud for warmth and gazing at old magazines for entertainment, a thought came to her: She had not heard quality music in what seemed like 400 years. She had been reading about old music that had been reinvented by a popular “star” who happened to have been born in Enid’s hometown, and who would understand why Enid had been flapping her wings all these years.

A few days later, Enid devised a plan for her flight back to America. She donned her most attractive costume, counted her coins, and scrounged together enough money for a one-way ticket home: “Success!”