Studying Edward Scissorhands
Tim Burton really unleashed his imagination for the first time when he made the pop fairytale Edward Scissorhands in 1990. Just as Burton’s success is associated with Batman, his artistic reputation is inextricably linked to Edward Scissorhands. Modern narratives are often updated versions of timeless stories. Edward Scissorhands adapts the structure and conventions of the European fairytale to a contemporary American, suburban setting. Clips mentioned in this section are not available to view on the website but are readily available to buy or rent from the usual outlets. The film can be read as a dark, romantic fable for adults, another take on the disparity between the individual and society, on the unique nature of one single character and the horror of conformity. The Frankenstein story provides the model here. ‘A monster with a heart’ was one of the central themes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, with an emphasis on sympathy, and intellectual and emotional identification particularly characteristic of English Romanticism. Edward Scissorhands takes up this tradition in so far as the creature becomes an object of sympathy and makes the world around him appear monstrous in comparison with his own innate goodness. Burton sets his story in a contemporary American suburb. He has given each generation represented in Edward Scissorhands its own system of symbolic shorthand representing the different eras they grew up in, different times associated with different tastes, each expressing a particular aesthetic. The parents generation is characterised by familiar 50s and 60s icons; theconformist, consumer-led boom of those years represented by lava lamps, functional interiors and social rituals like the barbecue. The younger generation wears the insignia of the 80s: jeans, T-shirts and the dream of fast money symbolised by a Landrover decorated with flames, all very reminiscent of the familiar aesthetics of Slacker films. Ultimately Edward...
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