Before we started this movie, Annemarie asked me if it was even a little bit of a horror movie. I promised her that it wasn’t. That if anything, it was a love story, and an example of when Tim Burton was near the height of his powers. In the course of this conversation I learned that she hasn’t seen Beetlejuice, so the problem is worse than I realized.
But, I digress, we started with this, the second collaboration between Winona and Tim Burton, Edward Scissorhands. AM, kick us off with the usual questions. Why did I make you watch this movie (particularly now, as I forced it on you about a year ago before this column ever existed)? What was your reaction to it?
A: Yes, Edward had been sitting on our DVD cabinet for the better part of a year. Brooke had thrust it at me a day after discovering that I hadn’t seen it, and I do credit the film and the aforementioned lack of seeing it as the catalyst for Required Viewing if not this entire website. As usual, I have no real excuse except that yes, the stills from the movie made me think it was horror-centric and I don’t do horror. (Cue Brooke plotting to make me watch more horror films and insert Annemarie rolling her eyes.)
But I always say when I’m wrong, and I was wrong. Edward Scissorhands isn’t a horror movie, and yes, Tim Burton isn’t really a horror director. I’ve seen some of his other tales, including Nightmare Before Christmas and he’s what I would deem a gothic softie. There’s darkness, but there’s mostly sweetness and romanticism underneath. His aesthetic is directly responsible for about 45% of the emo movement in the mid-to-late 2000s (if I had to put a concrete number on the phenomenon).
I already know that Brooke loves Winona pretty much unconditionally, so that’s reason #1 this film is on the must-watch list. Add into that a classic tale that I believe was influenced heavily by Frankenstein and a dash of pre-abusive Johnny Depp? She’s hooked. It’s a smartly sweet story and allegory and I did greatly enjoy it.
Brooke, am I right that Edward is equivalent in many ways to Frankenstein’s Creature? What might have come over someone to think that scissors for hands was a good idea? What would your ideal topiary look like?
B: To be fair, I first called you history’s greatest monster for not having seen The Breakfast Club. After you dutifully watched that, I brought you Reality Bites, which led to the Edward Scissorhands reveal. So our pal Edward is definitely one of a few dominos that led us to this point, but he didn’t necessarily start the fire.
I definitely agree that Edward Scissorhands seems to have a very strong Frankenstein influence. When we watched I found myself thinking back to the stage version of Frankenstein we featured in this very column back in October. Edward’s attempted integration into society accounts for a large swatch of this picture reminded me of seeing OG Frank learning to read and longing for contact on the stage. It’s particularly interesting that Edward is very enthusiastically accepted, and quite quickly, almost an object of fetish for the bored ladies in the neighborhood. Is that because of his sweet nature? His talent? His outsider look and seductive eyes? Probably all of the above. I can’t pretend that I don’t understand the attraction to Edward. I acknowledge that his hands are problematic, but he never claims any attachment to them, so that’s a temporary barrier, you know?
I think The Inventor was a guy who had the best of intentions for Edward, he wasn’t finished with his work after all. But why exactly he didn’t make the hand hands to swap for the scissor hands is utterly beyond me. And as to how he determined that 8-10 pairs of scissors working together was a good idea… I’m at a loss. But he must have been on to something because Edward has some real vision.
My dream topiary would be sweeping and dramatic. Something like Disney’s Robin Hood and Maid Marion playing badminton with Prince John and Sir Hiss. Don’t ask me how Hiss will accomplish that, I just know he will.
Would you trust Edward to give you a new look? As we watched, we had a lot of conversations about the era of this picture — what do you think of the influences Burton imposed on the world of 1990? Do you like Winona’s old lady voice here as much as her mock old lady voice from Little Women? “Decrepit old spinsta!”
A: If there’s one thing that we have today that we didn’t in 1990, it’s old age makeup and effects so convincing that you often don’t even know you’re looking at the same person. Not to say that Winona’s old lady makeup wasn’t impressive in Edward, but you still knew there was a 19-year-old woman underneath. Maybe it was the voice as much as anything, which is probably a difficult thing for an actor to accomplish.
Since Edward is the OG Emo Heartthrob, I think all of the above is correct. The ladies in the ‘hood live in a pastel world, and he’s nothing but darkness. Sweet, helpless and beguiling darkness, but still. I suspect the scissors were simply a plot device invented by the filmmakers because I cannot fathom why you’d make your Emo Prince have scissor hands. He’s got talent, there’s no question, but while I’d hire him for topiary work in a minute, I can’t say I’d have him “improve” my look. The fact that he’s got hidden talent as a hairstylist mostly speaks to the film aesthetic and the influence he has over the ladies. If Nightmare caused all the emo sleeve tattoos of the mid-2000s to happen, it’s clear that Edward inspired so, so, so many “messy not done” hairstyles and all-black wardrobes.
I think the fact that he’s accepted so quickly is actually less surprising than how quickly they drop him. If you get to know him and know he’s an innocent, why would you not instinctually protect him like Dianne Wiest? His descent into outcast is tragic and completely reminiscent of Frankenstein. Where is there on Earth for a creature like him? If you have no one else, where do you go to fit in? Can you ever assimilate given your differences? It speaks to our nature as humans that we ultimately cannot accept what is different. Basically, we suck, and the Creature in both of these stories suffers for it.
I absolutely love your topiary design, and I think Edward could knock that one out of the park. I can picture Hiss using his tail (since he uses his tail as his hands) to hold the racket. My money’d be on the foxes to beat the lion/snake combo if that was a real game. As you might have been able to tell, I’d go with a shark design. But not any shark. I’d like a topiary of me swimming with a whale shark. At real-life scale.
You’re right. Breakfast Club was the first time you called me an uncultured monster, and look where we are now!
B: We’ve traveled such a long way — but fear not dear readers, our list still has PLENTY of entries on it, and we’ll be tackling them all in due course. But for the next little while, we’re going to daydream of Edward making a beautiful ice sculpture every time it snows.
Up next we visit one of the most iconic films of all time, Mary Poppins. Stay tuned to hear Brooke make excuses about why she hasn’t seen it yet.