Teenaged girls are a force to be reckoned with. Like tsunamis and hurricanes. Oh sure, industry wisdom has it that teenaged boys go to the movies; they’re the prime target audience. Anyone who ventures into the multiplex in the heat of summer knows that. But never underestimate the awesome power that is a teenaged girl with a crush…for that crush can easily become an obsession…and that obsession can turn into some serious cash. Witness last weekend’s seventy million dollar box office take for the eminently crushworthy vampire teen romance, “Twilight.” For almost twenty years, “Edward Scissorhands” has been my uncontested poster boy for doomed Gothic-tinged star-crossed romance. Can Edward Cullen, Twilight’s fangless undead hunk unseat Tim Burton’s most memorable creation? It’s the Battle of the Edwards…a Battle to the Death. And beyond.
Well, she was just seventeen. You know what I mean. Bella Swan. Barely enough blood in her brooding body to bring a blush to those perfectly smooth cheeks. Listless. Lifeless. Secretive. So deeply sensitive that the slightest of smiles might overstate any case for happiness. A child of divorce shuttled between dry hot Arizona and cold damp Washington State. Phoenix to Forks. Frying pan into the fire.
“Twilight” is the blue-hued film that perfectly captures all the angst, ennui and bliss of being a teenager in love. Based on the incredibly hot series of novels by Stephenie Meyer and brought to the big screen by director Catherine (“Thirteen”) Hardwicke and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, what we have here is a chick-let flick of impeccable pedigree.
Imagine you’re a teenage girl. All romances are somewhat star-crossed. All families (including your own) seem alien. “Twilight” extends a lovely metaphor for the teenager’s most devout wishes: to stop time, to never turn into your parents, to stay in high school but rarely attend class, to indulge in risky behaviors without actually taking any risk. Edward Cullen’s very existence demands secrecy, and that secrecy only enhances the inherent romance and intrigue. This vegetarian vampire is the perfect boyfriend. He’s dangerous yet fiercely protective, strong yet gentle, sexual yet chaste. He drives (and yes, even flies) with reckless abandon, but he’s sworn to keep you safe. This Superman hungers for you so much that he cannot trust himself to do more than kiss your forehead. He sneaks in your bedroom at night to watch you sleep. He’s the perfect imaginary friend of a teenage boy, perfectly beautiful, pale and cold as an alabaster statue, with eyes that change color. In the sunlight, his flesh turns to glitter; he’s My Little Pony come to beautiful eternal undead life.
No wonder teenage girls are flocking to the theater to gaze upon him and perfect their own version of the fantasy. What an irresistible thought — the temptation to make like Romeo and Juliet — but instead of dying, living together forever, undead and at the height of physical perfection and longing.
The Defending Champion
Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands” is an imaginative visual feast, a modern classic, but it is also at its core a love story. Winona Ryder, luminous and pale and weirdly blonde, almost tubercular, misunderstood by all the hulking mortals in her dreary midst, finally finds her soulmate in Edward. Not quite alive and not quite dead, Edward longs to touch his beloved but cannot. Again, the perfect teenaged girl fantasy — desperately wanting to be desperately wanted but not ravaged, relishing instead the precariousness of the danger, inflating that impossible closeness, savoring that distance imposed by the imminent threat of physical harm. Paging Doctor Freud.
Vampires are intrinsically sexy and high concept, instantly reducing their mere mortal peers to unfit rivals. Bella and Edward will be back in a sequel in no time; the cliffhanger promise dangles over the movie’s credits, and the studio licks its proverbial chops, contemplating another cash cow series in its pipeline. The romance sustains easily; enemies and plot threads remain. But these things take time. Months will pass before Edward’s and Bella’s ghostly pale reverie can play itself out again on the silver screen for their loyal minions and devotees. They’ll soar again over the dark pines; bad vampires will hunt them, and they’ll fight their overwhelming urges to kill and be killed. Robert Pattison’s Edward Cullen joins the pantheon of poster boys and action figures. A fine actor, the role is the thing; he made no considerable impact in the Harry Potter series.
The male beloved is alien, unlike anyone else. That mystery enthralls and entices, elevates him above the usual suspects, all those clumsy jocks and horny lunks and crude bores. And oh, the hotness. All that white skin and pale grey shadow around the eyes. The crazy hair. Oh, those dreamy Edwards and their styling gel. I swoon.
“Twilight” is effective enough. Its familiar themes made fresh by clever production design and a female point of view on romance. What male director/screenwriter could guess that an aerial shot of two figures lying in close proximity in the grass would make us swoon and fantasize more than that same couple entwined? Echoes of television’s “Roswell” and “My So-Called Life” resonate in the laconically underwritten female lead in love with a bad boy.
But “Scissorhands” is a revelation, Tim Burton’s poem to cookie cutter suburbia with Edward as his twisted Doppelganger. The director’s peculiar genius shines bright in every frame; veiled autobiographical details hover and color the enterprise. More than a teen romance, a fable, a black comedy, a children’s bedtime story washed down with a hint of arsenic. Instantly a cinema classic, it’s hard to remember regarding life or topiary or snow before Scissorhands. Diane Wiest, Winona Ryder, Johnny Depp, Vincent Price. Perfection.
I know. I know. I’m hardly the target audience. I aged out decades ago. Shut up. I get it. Even in my waking fantasy life, I’m pretty sure no vampires or other hotties are coming calling. For the sake of argument, however, I get to pick one. As much as I’d love to fly through the forest on the admittedly irresistible Edward Cullen’s back, I have to choose my vintage Mister Ed over this new contender for the crown. While I’ll happily buy the Edward Cullen action figure to ogle on my desk, it’s darned near impossible to find a straight guy with wicked cool tonsorial skills. Think about it: I’d never again have to ask the whereabouts of the good scissors, and my coiffure would look totally awesome. Plus he does creative yardwork, doesn’t talk much (a huge bonus), and he looks a lot like Johnny Depp. So, teenyboppers. It’s Edward Scissorhands, by a hair.