Describe the signifying systems of the opening scenes of Edward Scissorhands. Edward Scissorhands is a Tim Burton Award-Winning production filmed in the early ’90s. It is a satire of an American-based, suburban life causing a utopia with a bit of gothic fantasy. Within the film, we see a hybrid of genres with connotations of many references of Frankenstein, Sleeping Beauty, and Freddy Kruger, which also observes the ‘mother figure,’ physical disability and prejudice, all developing into an unexpected eye gripping film. In my essay, I will point, explain and decode the question of Edward Scissorhands in different sections and how they are signified.
As Edward Scissorhands is just beginning and the opening credits are in view, the colours used as the credits roll though, are dark, gloomy and dim ones, these colours being mainly black and grey, showing the film to be along with the horror genre. Although we do not only see this, at first, we begin to go up some stairs, stairs that look to be going nowhere, but there is so much more taking place. Shapes can be seen floating across the screen; these can be easily identified as hearts, stars and people, all made of what looks to be cookies. This has the connotation of the homely Christmas feel, though they are quite deceiving as you don’t know the purpose of the cookies; maybe it symbolizes the childhood and loves Edward never had. But, unusually away from this, it looks the exact opposite; it looks like the film will be along with the horror genre.
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Many figures of spooky sorts and rusty robots can be seen, these figures are seen to be unsafe, and a bit risky, especially as many sharp objects like scissors are in view. Even a dead man can be seen, signifying the connotations of what seems to be a gothic horror. All this is played along with sire eerie music, which adds to the suspense of what is going to happen and finishes off the horror atmosphere. With all this and so much going on, your first instincts are that something bad is going to happen and that this film is scary, but beware, there is a false understanding, it’s deceitful because we are unsure what they are there for but instantly think the film is an unexpected, frightening one. Although all this becomes clear because as the film plays through, it is contrasted to what we think is going to happen. Therefore, signifying that what is going to happen is supposedly bad.
After the initial credits, we are situated in a warm, cozy bedroom with the Grandma (Kim) who is telling the story; she is telling the story of Edward Scissorhands to her Grand-Daughter, as she tells and describes the castle, the child adds her opinion. When this starts to happen, it satires the fairytales of ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ just re-invited, with the two characters swapped around. There is a big contrast; the bed is oversized for this little girl; it’s larger than life, it’s making the girl look small, representing that the bed is a safe place and a secure place that is snug and very protected. In the film, there is a very stereotypical grandma; she is very motherly, caring, telling a bedtime story to the little child, telling the story around a fireplace, rocking in her chair, telling it in a story-teller way. The reality is that the film keeps the way we see older adults alive, not being so deceptive and keeping it as it is.
The bedroom and the outside are contrasted in almost every aspect; the room is full of warming, soothing and bright colours such as orange and yellow, giving it that safe feeling, which signifies the loving feel within the film. You see everything that takes place as it starts with an extra-long shot, so we can see how safe it is and how everything in the bedroom is placed soothingly together. Although, when the grandma starts to tell her story and talk about the castle with the ‘monster’ of Edward in it, there is an immediate change of colours. It becomes dark, icy and isolated, totally different from the bedroom; it is very symbolic; the outside signifies an unhappy and dark feeling. Here again, showing that this film is trying to signify a horror gothic genre.
Soon after we see the suburban town, the atmosphere is very tidy and perfect, the grass is green and neatly cut, the cars are shining, everything is decorated, nothing out of place and the houses are perfect pastel colours, and they match in a way that altogether the neighbourhood signifies a utopia—the ‘perfect’ place. However, on the other hand, the housewives make it is contrasted to what we believe the place is, trying to deceive the audience. The first housewife is a bit hard on a peg, crude, curls in her hair, and, let’s face it, a bit overweight. So really not so perfect like we expect her house is shown to be. The next housewife is impatient, not very kind, and only interested in herself, although she flirts quite a lot as she gets lonely, which is why she does it. Really you expect her to be kind and everything you expect her to be that her home tells us. As we move on, we come to the third housewife. This housewife is very childlike, very young, dependent on other people, and wants many silly things she doesn’t really need. Not very mature and irresponsible, especially to be a wife. She’s the child within her. So far, we haven’t seen one perfect housewife. Finally, the last housewife is a loner, rather odd.
She is a bit crazy, and hardly anyone knows or talks to her or wants to talk to her as she has many different views of her surroundings. However, Peg is rather different from the rest; she works to get her own money and be a good mother/housewife. Peg, the Avon lady, goes to the castle because she wants to sell her products, needs the money and customers, as no one buys them. Still, then again, Peg is secretly nosey as no-one goes up there, no-one knows what the castle is about, she wants to find out about it, in a way where it shows really, she’s trying to sell her products. Showing the audience that the neighbourhood isn’t what we expect it to be and is deceptive because something is bound to go wrong.
The Avon lady, in a way, is represented very symbolically and stereotyping a mother figure. She is very caring and takes Edward into her home, looks after him as mothers would do, looks out for him, and she’s raising a happy family. Peg and the castle are both contrasted in different ways to each other, and it’s a bit like good versus evil; Peg is very innocent, neat, tidy, and truthful and even brightly coloured, whereas the castle is derelict, looks very dangerous, the total opposite of peg, nothing like her. When Peg enters the Castle Garden, it is shocking. To her and the audience, it’s a very creative garden; you expect it to be untidy to be down as the Castle is, but the Garden is very deceptive compared to the castle it belongs to. It makes you think, what kind of person makes this, and why is it like this? And of course, you think that someone kind, caring and proud has obviously produced a neatly cut, never seen before the garden. You have a garden, a castle, and the garden is the opposite of what you think, just like the suburban town.
Edward represents people unusually but also stereotypically; just like Edward, you see him as a scary person; well, your first instinct is that he is a scary person because of the way the lighting with him in the background all you see is the sharp scissors he’s a very alienated character. Still, really he is very childlike, doesn’t know what is going on really, seems to be dangerous, but really there is a huge false understanding, and that’s why Peg acts the way she does when she first sees Edward. When she enters the castle, her stereotype changes, and the music changes, it is calm and sweet. Ass she begins to walk up the stairs and see Edward, the music becomes more dramatic, bolder and louder, giving the audience the feeling of suspense. The way the music changes and the type of horror music playing gives you the feeling that something bad will happen, but then she sees Edward and starts to act all motherly. Still, when Edward comes into the light, and you see him in his leather suit and scars all over his face, her first instinct is to back away.
She’s scared of Edwards, she fears him, she gasps because of what she sees, she starts to walk back. Edward walks towards her, Peg then automatically gestures him to stop, but Edward is calm, childlike, and innocent. Peg realizes he is ok; she then changes back to the stereotype of a mother; she’s caring once again, she asks sweet, calm questions like ”are you alone”. Once Peg has asked all these questions, she doesn’t even give Edward the chance to answer them; she takes control. She begins touching his face, tries to change him and mould him, trying to cover up the nasty scars until she decides to take him and look after him there and try and change him. She does all this because she knows he isn’t harmful; he is just confused and a guiltless character.
At the beginning of this essay, I mentioned that Edward Scissorhands had references to sleeping beauty; this is one of the fairytale conventions because Edward is like the beast, and he falls in love with Pegs Daughter, who is the Beauty, although it would never work because they are just so different, Edward would never be safe in the suburban town. Kim would never be happy in the castle, all locked up. Other fairytales that can relate to this film are fairytales such as Jack and the Beanstalk; I think this is because Peg is a small person; she is tiny. Here she goes into a humongous castle, the door to the castle is twice her size, and then she looks up to the big hole in the roof, the size of the hole is engulfing her, making her look really small. At the end of it all, we are again given the view of Suburbia, this place is represented as perfect, but as we all know after watching the film, looks can be deceiving.
This signifies that although the outside appearance might look perfect, everything inside looks completely different, just like Edwards; he looks like a monster on the outside. Still, on the inside, he is nice and just wanted to be understood, accepted; just the other monsters we know, like Frankenstein, look evil, but on the inside is nice and caring and wants to be normal. And at some point, everyone feels like Edward, everyone sometimes feels misunderstood and excluded, and all he wants to do is fit in, but he never can; he isn’t safe in suburbia, whereas the castle is the only place he will be. At the same time, Tim Burton, the director of the film, is satirizing suburbia. He’s playing on the fact that homemakers are shown or known to be perfect. By using Edward, he’s using humour and exaggeration, showing a bit what the suburban town is like, criticizing the suburban life and what we think about it all. , So finally, signifying that what we see in the film means something else to what we actually see.