In 1990, Tim Burton (Frankenweenie, 2012) released his fourth feature film as a director and the first movie he had written the story for, Edward Scissorhands (1990). With more than a hint of Frankenstein about it, the story focuses less on Edward’s creation and his relationship with his creator, and more on Edward’s effect on the small suburban community he has lived on the fringes of his whole life.
Rather than beginning with an origin story, Edward Scissorhands starts with Peg, an ambitious Avon lady trying to sell products to her various housewife neighbors. Peg already seems to stick out from the community as she’s the only one who appears to have a job and leave the house during the day. After a day of failed selling to her neighbors, she makes her way to the comically over-the-top gothic mansion that lurks at the edge of the pastel-painted neighborhood.
The mansion could not stick out anymore if it tried, looking like something that Dracula would lurk inside, while everything else in the neighborhood from the houses, to the cars, and even the neighbor’s outfits are bright and garish. It’s clear the residents ignore it’s existence because it doesn’t fit into their vision of a perfect neighborhood, but when Peg enters the grounds, she finds them beautiful, cared for, and full of impressive topiary sculptures. It shows that appearances can be deceiving in this little corner of the world, a theme that continues throughout the entire film, especially once Edward is introduced to the town.
Inside, Peg finds Edward, a humanoid man with scissors for hands who has been living alone since his creator, The Inventor, died. We find out a little more about Edward’s creation through flashbacks, and unlike the common Frankenstein tale, we see that Edward and The Inventor loved and cared for each other very much. The Inventor did his best to tutor Edward and prepare him for the outside world, but sadly, The Inventor died before he was able to finish Edward, leaving him with scissors for hands. Fearing that Edward will harm himself if he’s left alone, as his face is already covered in cuts and scars, Peg decides to take him home to live with her and her family.
Edward is so excited to be out in the real world, smiling as Peg guides him to the car and back to her home. He excitedly points out the car window and bangs his head on the glass trying to take it all in. This colorful world is the exact opposite of the environment he has grown up in, and the pastel shades alone are a lot to take in. However, as they drive through town, the residents go from unaware, to nosey, to running into their homes as he passes.
While the men in this town are present, the real focus is on the housewives and how Edward affects their way of life. After a speedy gossip phone session, the housewives gather on the corner to discuss the situation, and the newcomer, only dispersing when their husbands’ cars arrive home in unison.
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As the men exit their homes en-masse the next morning, the women descend on Peg’s house for answers. After filing her answering machine with messages and getting no response, they peer pressure Peg into holding a barbeque to introduce Edward to the neighborhood. Despite her gut instinct telling her no, Peg is forced to comply with the societal expectations of the community and be welcoming to her neighbors. While their husbands are present at the barbeque, it is again the women that take center stage in relation to Edward.
Edward is something new and exotic in a neighborhood that is groomed to perfection. None of the women, Peg included, appear to have a particularly deep connection with their husbands, who all seem to fit into the stereotype of the golf-loving, hardworking, suburban husband. They give off the impression of couples who got together in high school and have lived in the same town all their lives, and Edward offers them a new outlet for their attention. The men in town see Edward as a passing curiosity, whereas the women want to be involved in his life and gain the affection of the town’s newest resident.
Not only that, but Edward is a man who has come into their lives and is willing to do the things their husbands have no interest in doing. Peg’s husband, Bill, is seen pretending to cut the garden hedges while really focussing on the sports game that’s on the radio. Edward, however, loves sculpting the hedges and does so with finesse and ease. Soon, his skills are in high demand all over town, with the women baking him cookies and making him lemonade in return for his gardening skills. He’s a new source of attention for them, even if he’s not quite sure what to do with these tokens of affection. They also get to care for Edward and feel that rush of excitement that comes with meeting someone new.
However, this is where the women in town start to use Edward a little bit, taking advantage of his good nature and his desire to make friends. Bill comments that Edward doesn’t charge for his gardening service, with no one offering to pay him in more than baked goods. Edward soon branches out into dog grooming and eventually hairdressing, all of which he dishes out for free. Joyce, arguably the horinest of all the housewives, wants to open a hair salon with Edward, putting herself in the hostess and face of the brand role, while Edward does all the hard work. It’s here that Joyce finally makes a pass at Edward, which he rejects by walking out, not quite understanding what Joyce climbing on top of him in her bra means.
This is the major turning point for Edward and his relationship with the women in the town, but Edward is uninterested in a romantic relationship with anyone apart from Peg’s daughter, Kim. Kim is the only member of the town who is initially resistant to Edward, feeling shocked by his appearance and embarrassed by the attention he is drawing to her family. However, this distance between them, in the beginning, means that Kim grows to know him as a real person, rather than just being swept up in the excitement of him coming to town like everyone else.
When Kim asks Edward to help with a plan to pull an insurance scheme on her boyfriend Jim’s parents, Edward ends up stuck in the house alone, making it look as if he was trying to rob Jim’s family. This event teamed with Joyce spreading rumors about Edward trying to seduce her while she rejected him, leads to the neighborhood losing interest in Edward. Instead of a new, exciting addition to the neighborhood, he is now tainted goods, and the residents want nothing to do with him.
It’s here where the story descends into a more classic version of the Frankenstein story, with Edward accidentally injuring Kim’s younger brother, Kevin, and the town using this as a final straw to chase him from their streets. All that’s missing are the pitchforks and flaming torches. The town welcomed Edward in the first place because they wanted something new, exciting, and different in their presence, and ironically, all Edward did was make the town look even more similar than it already did by giving everyone the same topiary sculptures and the same haircuts. While there were many offers to hook Edward up with a doctor who could help his condition, this never transpires.
The focus is always on the needs of the women rather than the needs of Edward, no matter how friendly they may seem to him. They want to keep him special so that he stands out from the normality of suburbia. They cannot understand why Edward would want to be just like everyone else and not stand out anymore, but as Edward reveals on a talk show, that’s what he’s always wanted.
“[…] the story descends into a more classic version of the Frankenstein story […] All that’s missing are the pitchforks and flaming torches.“
Kim is the only person that has fully connected with Edward at this point. She never tries to change him, and falls in love with him the way he is, even if it means they can never be together. She rejects the suburban dream of marrying your high school sweetheart and having your whole life planned out for you at a young age when she dumps Jim and pursues her feelings for Edward. While the women of the town used Edward as a replacement for the things they weren’t getting from their husbands, Kim recognizes that Edward is what will truly make her happy.
The story is bookended by Kim as an old lady, telling her granddaughter the story of Edward and the effect he had on her life. While the town likely went back to ignoring Edward and his over-the-top gothic mansion the minute he stopped serving his purpose for them, Kim has never forgotten the time she shared with Edward, even if it was incredibly brief. Edward Scissorhands shows how important those deep connections are, compared to superficial connections like those the housewives form with Edward.
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Edward said his favorite thing about his time in the town was the friends he made, but by the end of the film, it’s clear that the only true friend he has is Kim. She fought for him until the end and made sure the town left him alone even after Jim died. She even put her feelings for him aside to ensure he stayed safe and never visited him after that night. And in return, Edward continues to make his ice sculptures, covering the town in ice shards and hoping Kim will feel the joy she felt that night when she danced in the snow and told Edward she loved him. Kim is the only person in town who still remembers Edward, and he wants to make sure she’ll never forget him.
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