In which ways does Tim Burton use a mixture of genres in “Edward Scissorhands” to present the conflict between Edward and Society?
Edward Scissorhands, directed by Tim Burton, is a movie about a young man named Edward who lives alone in a mansion on top of a hill. The old man who invented Edward died of a heart attack shortly before completing him and placing plastic hands over his scissors. Avon Lady, Peg Boggs discovers Edward one morning during one of her rounds and takes him back to live with her in her pastel-coloured suburbia. As a movie, Edward Scissorhands contains all the distinguishing elements of a Tim Burton film. There is the prototype of the well-meaning outsider who, despite good intentions, will always fail at his or her attempts to fit in with the "normal" world. By presenting various symbols and incorporating numerous elements throughout the movie, Burton makes it clear that Edward Scissorhands will never belong in Peg Boggs’s perfect suburbia. Although he can do various tasks such as trim shrubs, he is not classed as an average human and is seen as some sort of freak when he enters suburbia in the car.
Even before viewing the film, one is aware that it is not a conventional horror. Burton's previous films Beetlejuice and Batman prepare one to expect a film which is visually stunning, perhaps with humour or. The publicity for Edward Scissorhands used the phrase 'the story of an uncommonly gentle man' and posters showed a picture of a sad Edward with a butterfly perched on one of the sharp blades. Contrasting images such as these reinforce the idea of a mixture of the romance and horror genres. A close analysis of the opening sequence of Edward Scissorhands reveals many of the conventions associated with the horror genre but these are offset by elements of comedy and romance. As the credits roll, the eerie music, the graphics of the names make jagged scissor shapes and the major colours of black and white establish the relationship with the horror genre. We then see visual images associated with the conventional 'haunted house' yet the music becomes lighter, brighter and some of the gadgets look like toys, reminding the audience that this is not a horror film. The motif of falling snow, associated with Edward and used throughout the film, creates an atmosphere of tranquillity and romance that again contrasts with the horror images.
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The two worlds meet for the first time when Peg Boggs decides to visit the castle to sell Avon products. The light-hearted music associated with the suburb becomes eerie as soon as Peg views the castle through her wing mirror, the long shot emphasising the sense of unreality and illusion. When Peg reaches the castle, long wide-angled shots convey the relative size of character and setting and suggest too her vulnerability in the strange environment. Black and white are the predominant colours, except for the character of Peg. We first see Edward in a long shot, coming into medium close-up and his pale, scarred face, weird hair, black clothes and 'scissor' hands mark him as the conventional monster, yet even before the audience can make that judgement we must consider the joining of these images with the gentle voice and the close-up shot of the sad eyes.
The movie takes place in an entirely artificial world, where a haunting gothic castle crouches on a mountaintop high above a storybook suburb. The Avon lady isn't put off. She bundles Edward into her car and drives him back down the mountain to join her family, which includes daughter Kim and husband Bill. The neighbours in this suburb are curious, led by a nosy neighbour named Joyce. The movie then develops into a series of situations that seem inspired by silent comedy. Edward looks imprisoned and very lonely. He seems excluded from society. Edward has jet-black hair and an extremely pale face. He is wearing what looks like black leather. This man or thing is odd and peculiar. The imprisonment so to speak of Edward keeps the audiences curiosity because we have so many questions that need answering. Who is he? What is he like? Why is he there? What has he done? He is moved from his house to Suburbia. The impression of bright, happy life in Suburbia is bright. The houses are symmetrical. The paths are conventional, but there are boundaries, which creates the theme of outsiders. As a woman walks up a ‘conventional’ path we see she walks precisely in the direction of the path. The lady rings the doorbell of a house and we learn she is an Avon rep. Her name is Peg. When trying to sell her products Peg moves like a robot. She looks to have been programmed by Avon headquarters. To us the audience, Peg comes across, as she has been a rep for many years. She is full of energy and likes to make sure that there is no confrontation between people.
Colour and music are used to highlight the differences between the two 'worlds' of the film. The first time colour is used is when the grandma is telling the story of Edward Scissorhands to the child in the oversized bed. Visually, this scene is reminiscent of fairytale and is another means used by Burton to indicate the purpose of his story. The two worlds are contrasted visually by the use of colour, the colours and uniform shapes of the suburban houses differing completely from the black and white of the derelict castle. The suburban world is apparently perfect with its cloudless blue sky, spotless houses, well-kept gardens and stereotypical inhabitants who are contrasted with the imperfection of the 'unfinished' Edward Scissorhands. Peg's offer to take Edward home with her precipitates the clash of the two worlds and places the film firmly in the tradition of the classical narrative structure, the equilibrium of the cosy, suburban society is being disrupted by the presence of the seemingly unnatural Edward Scissorhands. Although a disruptive force, Edward is initially treated very kindly and described in terms such as 'different and mysterious. He becomes a minor celebrity, however, because of his simplicity, he is soon shown to be unable to cope with the sophisticated, corrupt society in which he finds himself - the scene where he is seduced by an older woman. After being duped by Kim's horrid boyfriend, Jim, he is blamed for a robbery he did not commit. Suddenly, the very things that rendered him unique (Scissorhands) are seen as evidence that he is a dangerous criminal and unfit to live in 'normal society'.
Edward Scissorhands contains numerous stereotypical characters like the middle-aged woman who lusts after Edward (except Kim and Peg) who sees beyond Edward's superficial oddities to the underlying goodness. The Boggs family is presided over by the materialistic father to whom Peg and the others defer at all times. Jim is the archetypal spoilt, rich kid who rebels in order to annoy his dad and he also plays the role of the jealous boyfriend. The Boggs family is utterly conventional in lifestyle. Burton satirises a society that is so uniform, complacent and unimaginative that it is unable to cope with someone or something different. Significantly, Edward discards the trappings of the suburban society (cutting off the clothes Peg had given him) when it is revealed to be corrupt and shallow. He returns to the castle, an environment that is ironically more natural and human than that of the suburb. Thus Burton inverts the more usual horror convention in that his 'monster' is essentially more human than the apparently normal characters. The final image of Edward in the colourful gardens, surrounded by nature and creativity reinforces the idea that American society is too sterile and narrow to cope with one who does not conform.
The symbols in Edward Scissorhands are many (all to show different things) The first is the hedges that Edward cuts. They show how he is really feeling inside and that he has some good inside him. The next is the manikin, which is behind Joyce when she is getting undressed in front of Edward. This shows that she is nothing more that a doll that has been dressed up. Thirdly, are the haircuts that Edward gives the entire gossip cluster. They are all mad like his so it shows that he is one of them now (but soon the hair will grow back and they will be different again). Lastly is the bank safe closing at the back of Edward. This is symbolic because it demonstrates that he has been moved out of the society.
By Tom Simpson 10G