I remember being totally mesmerized the first time that I saw Edward Scissorhands. It marked the first collaboration for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, and boy, was it the start of a beautiful moviemaking relationship. The film is a whimsical and haunting modern fairy tale about a young man with scissors for hands who is created by an old inventor who dies before he can replace the scissorhands with human hands. The discovery of this isolated young man living alone in a deserted castle atop a hill and the way that he is at once embraced and then reviled by the residents of a cookie-cutter suburban community is a thing of beauty brought to life by the creatively brilliant mind of Tim Burton and the inexplicably beautiful acting of Johnny Depp. It’s a wonderful tale about love, kindness and acceptance as well as rejection, estrangement and isolation.
The film is full of many wonderful scenes that explore the ideas of tolerance from the people who’ve welcomed Edward into their lives. The scene that I always think of first is the one where Edward is eating dinner with Peg, the Avon lady who found him, and her family. Edward tries so hard to use his utensils and struggles terribly. Peg does her best to make the experience feel as normal as possible and scolds her son for staring. It’s not that her son, Kevin, is put off by Edward or frightened of him. Quite the contrary – he’s absolutely fascinated and thinks Edward and his scissorhands are cool. Peg’s husband, Bill, is a good-natured soul just like his wife and treats this meal like any other meal at their table. At one point he watches hopefully as Edward nearly succeeds in eating a pea and then looks empathetic when Edward drops the pea just before it reaches his mouth. It’s very clear that Peg and Bill are trying to create a sense of normalcy and inclusion for Edward, and it’s quite a heartwarming scene in the film.
The real magic in this scene is in the way that Johnny Depp plays Edward with a sweet, determined sensibility. He tries so hard with his large blades to dine with this family and to feel at home in this unnatural situation. And he finds a way! He realizes that the peas are too small, but that he can stab, pick up and eat the larger vegetables and he even butters his own bread. It’s a spot in the film where for a brief moment, Edward finds a way to belong apart from dazzling people with the things that he can create with his blades. Though the tone of the film turns from sweet benevolence to cruelty, the goodness in people is highlighted in this scene, and so too, is the desire by Edward to be embraced and to belong.