A film by Tim Burton, about an outsider; a man with scissors for hands.
Edward is an English name meaning “rich guard”. The name was made popular by Saint Edward the Confessor, a man thought to be a just king. Edward is one of the few Old English names that remained popular and was used throughout Europe. (behindthename.com)
Scissorhands isn’t his last name, but it is a unique feature of the character Edward. In place of each finger is a long sharp blade, thus making an entire hand composed of scissors.
Edward (Johnny Depp) is a living embodiment of why we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. On the outside, he is a terrifying monster. One wrong move and he could kill someone. However, Edward is a very gentle man, not wishing to harm anyone. In the film, he tries his best to use his scissors as a tool, instead of a weapon. The film could’ve easily been a slasher film, where Edward is running around killing everyone in the suburbs, but Burton wanted to play with audience expectations and make him the antithesis of a monster.
Creation Brought to Life
Perhaps the closest parallel to the story of Edward Scissorhands is the Enrico Mazzanti novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio”, an Italian tale of a lonely woodcarver who desperately wants a son and carves a wooden puppet who comes to life, minus the nose growing. Both Pinocchio and Edward desire to become real or, in other words, mortal, like everyone else. In the end of “Pinocchio”, his wish is granted and he becomes a real boy. However, Edward is not so lucky. His creator has a heart attack right before he is about to be complete, and the hands are destroyed.
Edward’s hands are quite similar to horror icon Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise. While Edward doesn’t haunt people’s dreams, he does have blades for fingers. While Freddy’s blades are gloves, Burton went a step further and made Edward’s hands permanent.
Edward was a cookie cutter robot brought to life by the scientist who created him (Vincent Price). He was brought to life by a cookie heart that he was given. The change from robot to man was a long process, and it was almost complete, before the scientist died. Edward was left alone in his castle for years until an Avon lady named Peggy brings him to her home in the suburbs to take care of him. He is at first met with fear, then met with a rather superficial welcome. He uses his hands as tools to trim hedges and to cut hair.
Peggy’s daughter Kim comes home and Edward falls in love with her, but the love isn’t mutual. She pities him more than anything else. The plot thickens when her overprotective boyfriend feels threatened by him, and he provokes Edward. As people pressure and try to manipulate him, he retreats back to his castle never to return again. The only way that a much older Kim still knows Edward is alive is because before he came, it never snowed. The snow in the film is actually ice shavings from the large ice sculptures that he makes in the castle.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. While Edward looks like a murderous maniac with wild hair and a walking swiss army knife; his outward appearance conflicts with his gentle soul.
Edward Scissorhands is essentially Burton’s most autobiographical feature. If you look up any images of Tim Burton online, you will notice the similarities between Edward's wild haircut, and Burton’s own. The film is also heavily critical on suburban lifestyle. Everything in the suburbs cookie cutter, except the cookie cutter (Edward). The production designer deliberately made the houses look alike to emphasize the neighborhood’s artificiality.
Burton’s first film was Frankenweenie, a live action short where a boy name Victor resurrects his dog named Sparky, in a thinly veiled children’s friendly adaptation of the Mary Shelly novel “Frankenstein”. Burton uses the same elements from Frankenweenie in Edward Scissorhands. Drawing parallels with the Mary Shelly novel, both Edward and the monster were created with scrap parts, although Edward’s were machine parts, not limbs from corpses. Both the monster and Edward try to mingle with society and ultimately fail, except the monster does cause a considerable amount of destruction. Edward does not. Also, both the novel “Frankenstein” and Edward Scissorhands end with the creation alone, surrounded by snow and ice, all alone because their creators have passed. Both Edward and the monster are suggested to be immortal, but their end is bittersweet, because they are never able to connect with another person, or being like them.
The ideology in Edward Scissorhands is extremely pessimistic. It essentially states that people will never truly accept other people who are different, and especially not people who are weird. Burton also suggests in the context of the film, that the weird ones will feel much better if isolated from society, and left alone.
Created beings becoming human is hardly a new story. 14th Century Alchemist folklore wrote of the homunculus, or small men created from vials of sperm. One can speculate that human knowledge of reproduction was very limited at that time.
Mary Shelly’s novel “Frankenstein” was inspired galvanism, particularly when a hanged convict named George Forster was galvanized causing his right hand to raise and clench and his eyes to open (Ruston).
Robots becoming human:
Science Fiction’s most lauded man, Isaac Asimov wrote a novelette in 1976 called “The Bicentennial Man”, a story about a robot who becomes a human being. The story won a Hugo and Nebula award and in 1999 was adapted into a rather lackluster film.
Tim Burton emphasizes the plight of the weird in all of his films. As an outsider himself, he drew from his own personal experience, and the majority of his films are about this. Batman Returns tells the tragic tale of a man seeking vengeance on an entire city, because his parents rejected his deformity. Nightmare Before Christmas is about a skeleton that discovers Christmas in another world and wants to contribute his own spin, only to realize that every one would reject him and try to kill him. Ed Wood is about the worst film director of all time trying desperately to make Plan 9 From Outer Space, a film that would be called one of the worst movies ever made. One might fairly assume that the name Edward in Edward Scissorhands was inspired by the schlock auteur, Ed Wood.
Edward Scissorhands harshly criticizes the 50s lifestyle, continuing to preserve itself in the American suburbs. In many of his films, he illustrates the cold artificiality of the cookie cutter houses and the nosey neighbors who impose their input on the weirdos.
“Meaning, Origin and History of the Name Edward.” Behind the Name. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <http:www.behindthename.com/name/edward>
Ruston, Sharon. “The Science of Life and Death in mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” British Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015. <http%3A%2Fwww.bl.uk2Fromantics-and-victorians%2Farticles%Fthe-science-of-life-and-death-in-mary-shelleys-frankenstein>.