The film Edward Scissorhands by Tim Burton is a modern day retake of the gothic novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, the disney film Beauty and the Beast and can be related to the biblical saga of creation and Adam an Eve. This is because the film is about an unfinished, isolated monster who was created for the purpose of companionship, but instead tries to fit into society, falls in love and gets rejected, leaving him to live alone. The movie uses the film codes and conventions of characters, setting and plot/theme to achieve it’s gothic classification.
The characters in the film include Edward, Kim and The Inventor. Edward is the creation of the inventor and therefore is depicted as a something, rather than a someone who can feel and go through all the emotions of a human. Edward is an innocent person who hasn’t been subjected to the cruelty of society and because of that he is viewed as the underdog; someone who the public supports and loves. Edward is taken into the small town by Peg, the mother of Kim who found him in his castle alone. The use of the castle in this instance, was done to show how Edwards was isolated and cut off from the ‘real’ world. It creates the feelings of mystery and foreboding as you don’t know what to expect from Edward in any given situation. Edwards response to different situations is shown and contrasted with that of the people in the community. It is derived that Edward is, as a matter of fact, the better ‘person’ overall. He knows how o act and treats people with the respect they deserve, regardless of their actions and situation. Because Edward is depicted as the better person in comparison to the towns people it causes the viewers to reflect upon themselves and their actions, asking how can they do better. This truth of society is shocking and shows the viewers what it has done to corrupt them in their treatment of others and their feelings towards people. Creation was used here to create the feelings of fear, judgement and foreboding. Although the film put an unusual spin to the normal context; showing that it is not the created that is the monster, rather that, we the humans, are.Edwards creator; the Inventor is a representation of God. This is because he creates a person who was meant to be perfect, without sin, but the situations turns sour and he ends up dying. In the story of creation (in the christian sense) Gd doesn’t die, Satin simply intervenes and gives Adam and Eve the knowledge of good and evil. In a similar way Pegg Boggs does this to Edward. She takes him out of his secluded castle (his garden of eden) and exposes him to the corrupt society of her town (the knowledge of good and evil). Edward is know left with the decision of choosing sides. Ada and Eve chose evil, by choice (choosing to eat the apple) but Edward was exposed to it, and decides to choose/do good. This is shown through his actions. In the second last scene of the film, Edward attempts to save Kim’s younger brother from a drunk driver. Unfortunately due to his scissor hands his attempts to help her brother only result in more cuts on his face (more injuries). The towns people only see his actions, not his intentions and judge him accordingly. These examples of creation tie the film Edward Scissorhands into the gothic genre as they propose feeling of fear, foreboding and unforeseen events as well as raising certain ethical issues.
Kim is a a young girl who has been raised within the town and thereby society. However she is seen as the exception among the town as she becomes friends with Edward, falls in love and excepts him for who he is. Although this does not happen immediately the viewer is able to see her perceptions change as she gets to know Edwards and realises the truth about her own society and people. As Edward forms this attachment with Kim, her former boyfriend becomes jealous and angry. Therefore when the opportunity presented itself he seized it, not regarding the dangers and implications of the situation that arose. Kim and her ex find themselves in the castle, looking for Edward. Kim to protect him, and her ex; Jim to kill him. In the end the situation unfolds and Kim becomes the damsel in distress. This implies the emotions of love and possibly death/injury. In order to save his love; Kim, Edward has to kill Jim, bringing death into the story. This can be related to the gothic disney film; Beauty and the Beast. The Beast is selfish and gets punished by an elderly woman, who turns out to be a witch.She turns him into a monster, allowing the only way to reverse the spell to be a woman falling in love with him. In order for this to happen the beast begins to change, while in her presence, and soon realises how wrong he was initially. The same happened to Kim with her realisation and change in perspective about Edward, although the roles were reversed and Kim was only a monster because of what society did to her. She became a better person through spending time with Edward. This is shown through her actions in the last scene where she lies and says that Jim and Edward killed each other. She does this to save Edward, although the repercussions are tragic. The situation implies forbidden love; as Kim and Edward can no longer see each other, as it risks both her and his lives. These elements of forbidden love, damsels in distress and creation help to attach Edward Scissorhands to the gothic genre.
Edward Scissorhands is set in a colourful small town situated bellow a dark, black castle. The colourful town allows for the perception that it is filled with happy people who are caring and like each other. Whereas the castle being dark and isolated, depicts the ideas of death, dislocation and danger. The contrast between the two allows you to see what is on the surface and not the ‘real’ story beneath the covers. This can be related to the moral don’t judge a book by it’s cover as the viewer looks at the town and the castle and decides upon only seeing how it looks (colours, space around it and shape; big or small it is) what society it contains within their walls. In this situation it is an oxymoron, the colourful, small town contains many people who hide behind words and accusations to cover their own faults and the castle contains one man who is innocent, kind and not judgmental. He is the exact opposite of not only the viewers initial thoughts, but also of the towns people. What they lack in character (way they treat others) he has. The setting of the climax in the castle, conjures up ideas of forbidding and danger. This is because the castle is isolated, meaning that if anything goes wrong help is far away. It is also dark and big; giving the impression that danger lurks beneath the shadows. The size of the castle gives the reader a better idea of the isolation of Edward and helps with the contrast of the town and castle. Because the town is so small, everyone within it knows everything that is going on, giving the false impression of closeness between the people. The truth is that the castle is the better place to live; it keeps you away from the corrupt society of the little town and the malicious nature of the towns people. The setting can be related to that of Beauty and the Beast. The castle wherein the Beast lives in large in size, dark in colour and isolated from the town and it’s people. Except in this case the ‘monster’ living in the castle deserves to be isolated because of his bad nature and treatment of other people. This time the depiction of the castle is correct as it is foreboding and does hold a monster, and thereby has danger attached. The conventions of colour and setting allude to the films gothic genre as they set the scene for the film and give the viewers their initial responses/feelings to the story and people involved.
The plot/ theme of the film is also used to determine that Edward Scissorhands is a gothic movie. This is achieved because the plot includes the elements of creation, castles, death and forbidden love. It is about a created human who goes into the society of a small town and turns out being a better representation of a human being than the people themselves. This is significant as it points out the deficiencies within our society, because we, as a population are represented to be malicious, judgmental and dismissive. The characteristics that these people are attached too shock the viewers as they are usually related to that of a monster. But because Edward is depicted as the innocent one, who treats everyone with respect, it creates a turn of events.The film provides the viewer with a new perspective on life and achieves this through it’s use of emotion, feelings and expectations of a human. Edward is accepted in the beginning but as things happen the townspeople’s view on and about him begin to change.They judge him on his actions rather than his intentions and soon the whole town is against him. It all begins when Edward decides to do something for Kim; in order to gain her trust and respect, but it doesn’t work and instead he gets arrested and the overall view of him is changed. The only person who knew his intention was Kim because she asked him to steal for her, knowing he would because of his feelings for her. She is now associated with feelings of deceit and manipulation, giving her a negative depiction. She becomes closer to Edward and asks for forgiveness and tries to prove herself worthy of him and his love through breaking up with Jim and apologising. Slowly the viewers ideas about her are changed as her true intentions are revealed. As she is he only one who knows the truth about Edward and what he really tries to achieve through his actions, she is soon the only one who still accepts him and loves him regardless of his actions. The whole town now has a different view about Edward and Kim, thinking that Edward is a danger to themselves and their families and Kim is an idiot for loving someone who could hurt her so easily. Kim soon realises this and when put on the spot decides that the only way for Edward to survive would be to let everyone think that he died. This action shows Kim’s true, deep feelings for Edward and he viewers feelings towards her are changed once and for all, and she becomes the exception within the community. This situation of forbidden love is an element that is used in many gothic stories such as Beauty and the Beast and to some extent Adam and Eve. It is relatable to Beauty and the Beast because Belle fall in love with the Beast. It is relatable to Adam and Eve because they both had a want for the forbidden fruit. The feeling attached to this element include those of sympathy and empathy. Sympathy because the viewer feels sorry for Kim and Edward, as they cannot be together and empathy because the viewer sees Kim and Edwards actions as acceptable and blame it on their situation. The viewer accepts them as they know they would do the same in a similar situation.
Edward Scissorhands uses the filmic codes and conventions of character, setting and plot/theme to achieve it’s gothic ties. This is concluded through the comparison of Edward Scissorhands to the well known gothic stories of Beauty and the Beast and Adam and Eve. The conventions allow for the point of comparison as well as the feelings and ideas comprised from them. The characters have the ties of gothic elements of creation, love and death, where the setting allows for dislocation isolation and atmosphere for mystery and suspense and lastly the plot/theme gives the elements of forbidden love and death.
By Kirstin Stobbe