Becoming Rebecca Doppelmeyer
It was something like 3am on a school night when I watched Ghost World for the first time. I was 12 and was dealing with the uncomfortableness of being a pre-teen girl; struggling with the difficulty of school, making friends, horrible back and stomach-aching periods and having to wear bras (to be honest, I’m still not over hiking up my boobs in a weird, wiry material, or time of the month’s). I was awkward, but dry humoured and sought friendships online because it was easier for me to connect with people in an anonymous space.
Watching a sarcastic and not really sure of herself character on screen, like Enid, I felt as if I’d found someone who, you know, understood me. When she got on the bus that never came at the end of the film, clutching her small suitcase as she headed off into the unknown, I thought she was the coolest person ever. I didn’t really ‘get’ Ghost World then, but at the time, I thought I’d had it all figured out - I wanted to be like Enid.
My idolisation and worship of her lasted for years, firstly through the film, then with Daniel Clowes’ comic. I introduced my dad and mum to Ghost World, and, after reading and watching both versions, they started to nickname me Enid. Being compared to her was a badge of honour; like I hadn’t just imagined the similarities between our personalities – others, people who knew me like my family, were saying it too.
I had kept a drawing journal before seeing Ghost World, but Enid inspired me to carry it on. It was my one space to sketch out a diary of my feelings, where I’d write in a Futurama alien language (Alienese) so no one could read the few words in it, and make comics of my mostly online friends. For one of my art projects, I made an Enid dress-up paper doll with clothes and accessories that I still have in my old school sketchbook. And, when I left school at 16 and started working at McDonalds, those 8 or so months seemed like Enid’s trial run at the cinema. I’d come home from work and Dad would ask me if I’d gotten up to anything “Enidish” at my job.
When Tumblr became the go-to place on the internet to document teen girl thoughts, Enid was unofficially crowned as a symbol for girlhood. Teenagers slightly younger than me were discovering feminism, or watching Sophia Coppola movies, or identifying – like I did – with Enid; reblogging screenshots of her most memorable quotes, or GIF sets walking alongside her best friend Rebecca in their ghostish town.
Ghost World was my heroism bible. The popularity of Enid, the film and comic - to a lesser extent, since it wasn’t as well known - didn’t bother me that much. Though I did have passing moments where I’d say “But I knew about it first”, it was still special to me. In a way, it was nice to see other girls ‘finding’ Enid, like I had.
Then, I started adapting to adult life. I left McDonalds to work at a film production company when I was 17. I was managing my own money, paying for my food and travel, working long hours and dealing with ‘adult’ situations before I turned 18.
I started to realise that I was quite a productive person, able to handle difficult people and just ride through it on my own, making journeys back home at 10PM from 13 hour days. For the first time, Enid and I were drifting apart and it was scary to think about. I was growing up without her.
From the age of 18 to nearly 20, I wasn’t handling work very well. I ended up coming back home at ridiculous hours completely drained, more so than my previous job. I’d get to my boyfriend’s house at nearly 12PM on Friday nights and sleep the weekend away.
I didn’t have time to write (which became my first real love, after drawing), hang out with friends, or do pretty much anything apart from work, work, work. My then-boss pulled me aside one day and said, “Brush your hair; put some make up on” and asked if I went out all the time or was “doing something” because I was ill a lot (due to not having any time to rest because of my job). I’d left education because I knew that working would be better than school, it had to be. I’d felt like I’d let everyone down.
It took all my courage, almost a month after I was set on leaving, to say to my boss that I wanted to travel with money my mum had given me. I was going and most likely not coming back. I was proud – triumphant, even - when, on my last day, I pulled away from the office in the studio’s shuttle bus. But it also felt like I had failed.
I hadn’t quit a job before unless I had something else lined up. I was going into the strangeness of unemployment, something that I’d experienced before and didn’t want to go back to. I chose between money and happiness, and I couldn’t have made a better choice, though it was hard of me to think of it in that way then.
The distance between Enid and I had been growing. I thought about it sometimes, but tried to ignore it. The connection to her was unparalleled by any other fictional character I admired, to the point that she was always more than that. Letting go of her would be another step into adulthood, one that I was unsure if I wanted to take even though I already had been, subconsciously, doing that for years.
Eventually, I did admit it to myself. Enid didn’t feel like me anymore; she wasn’t me anymore. I’d grown up without her, in, what I realised, was in a similar way to her friend Rebecca.
Rebecca wanted a comfortable living - to have a stable job, a house; to be able to provide for herself. Getting older doesn’t mean that you should conform to what society tells you will lead to a happy life (by dropping out of school, I already broke that timeline). It should be up to you what you do. She could still be dry witted and make fun of certain things, but ‘that person’ wasn’t who Enid wanted to be. Rebecca had it sorted.
It isn’t hard to realise why Rebecca isn’t as worshipped online as Enid is. She is seen more as a sidekick, who is just ‘around’. The film, after all, is told from the perspective of Enid, where most of the love for that character comes from, so it’s easy enough for Rebecca to become part of the backdrop. It’s only when GIFS quoting some of her most popular lines like, “Some people are okay, but mostly I just feel like poisoning everybody” or “He gives me, like, a total boner”, that people start to take notice of her.
Enid has the quality that young girls, like I was, can easily gravitate towards and identify with - especially at a younger age - whereas Rebecca signifies sort of an older/adult version of her. She isn’t as phased by certain things, is quite grounded, and understands the shitty world a little bit differently. The quirkiness of Enid’s dress sense, paired with her artistic sensibilities has only added to her popularity, too. Rebecca doesn’t share those ‘quirks’ with Enid, but still is very much her own person.
Rebecca’s ‘normality’ shouldn’t make her any less of a relatable character, she’s just put to the side because of the big personality that Enid is. She may not be creatively inclined, dress in a certain way or drop more than a couple of one-liners, but she still holds her own. She’s just different.
In some ways, I think my idolisation of Enid was a little misplaced. I like knowing what to do with my life, I enjoy stability. As a creative person it can be difficult to see yourself fitting into that type of slot, someone who is totally cool with the ‘work life’ even if it may not necessarily be their dream job or career, but close enough.
It’s weird. Nearly a decade on since first watching Ghost World I couldn’t feel any more unlike Enid, at 21. I’m working a good job, have moved in with my boyfriend, and am fully providing for myself. You could say, I’m living ‘that’ life, a Rebecca life, and that’s okay. The more I think about it now, I had only really been Enid on the surface – I was Rebecca all along – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
We can’t all be an Enid and, I guess, that’s just part of growing up. At least for me.