Some films are obviously Christmas movies, like A Christmas Story and The Grinch. But for others it’s not so clear cut. They may be set during the holiday season, and they may even touch upon Christmas themes, but does that mean they truly qualify in the traditional sense? To find out, we’re putting these movies on trial and laying out all the evidence for and against them by answering some pertinent questions, like we did with Die Hard, Gremlins, and Iron Man 3.
And there’s no better movie to enter into the great Christmas movie debate than Tim Burton‘s unusual classic, Edward Scissorhands.
Members of the jury, ask yourself:
How much of Edward Scissorhands takes place at Christmastime?
The last third of the film. It centers around Peg’s annual Christmas party. Though after Edward was arrested for burglary and Joyce lied about him forcing himself on her, no one wants to attend the gala. It’s a festive time in the neighborhood, with lights strung up throughout. Peg’s white tree has turned her house into a Christmas wonderland worthy of GoodFellas. A flashback to the Inventor’s sad death also takes place near Christmas, in a scene we still can’t handle.
The single most Christmas-y moment comes when Winona Ryder’s Kim goes out into the backyard to find Edward making an angel ice sculpture. It creates a beautiful sprinkling of “snow.” This same effect is seen at the beginning and end of the film when a very old Kim tells her granddaughter the story of the man with scissors for hands. While those scenes don’t take place at Christmas, they have the same ethos.
Would Edward Scissorhands be fundamentally different if it were set at any other time of the year?
Yes, because the first two-thirds of the film takes place in a seemingly idyllic, totally average, sneaky awful Anytown, USA. Where the sun always shines and everyone’s lawns are always green, all during a season of never-ending good weather. (Trivia note: the movie was filmed just outside of Tampa.)
This is the time when Edward is treated with kindness and admiration. It’s not until the magical season of goodwill towards men that he is persecuted and maligned. The dichotomy of the two main settings, and Edward’s experiences in town, directly contributes to the film’s plot and themes. The story wouldn’t be as effective if either time period were changed.
Do any of the film’s major themes apply to Christmas?
Family and love are two biggies you will find in any traditional Christmas movie. The biggest Christmas-related theme, though, is that of kindness. Treating others, especially outsiders and those less fortunate, with grace, understanding, and patience. In fact, it reminds us a lot of the most important Christmas story ever, but we’ll get to that.
Does watching Edward Scissorhands at Christmas time enhance the experience?
Yes, but not just because the movie partially takes place at Christmas. Edward Scissorhands is like a classic, dark fairy tale, and it’s all framed by an old woman telling the story to her granddaughter one late snowy night. Right from the beginning the film has a surreal, magical quality to it, which is enhanced by the town’s brightly painted houses and odd citizens. The film has an aura, also captured in its score, that is reminiscent of classic holiday ghost stories.
Here, the ghost is replaced by the monster in the haunted house. Christmas is the best time of the year to watch it.
Has this film been accepted as a Christmas movie tradition?
Despite being beloved, original, and made by Tim Burton at his peak, Edward Scissorhands has never fully entered into the cable rotation the way Beetlejuice has, let alone at Christmastime.
THE FINAL VERDICT
In addition to its setting, themes, and tone, there’s a real argument that Edwards Scissorhands is analogous to a slightly more famous Christmas story. The holiday is not technically about a guy with a beard coming down your chimney. It’s about the birth of Jesus Christ. There are clear parallels between Edward’s story and the life of Jesus.
Both were miracle births, both were kind and loving, both gave of themselves freely, both are believed to have eternal life, and both were persecuted by people who feared them.
The Boggs family home was Edward’s manger. Kinda.
When you combine that with the fact the film would be different if you changed its setting, it captures the magical feeling of the season while conveying classic Christmas themes, and it’s more fun to watch in December, yes, anyway you slice it, Edwards Scissorhands qualifies as a Christmas movie.
Originally published December 6, 2018.
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