The Theme of Conformity in the Film Edward Scissor Hands

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Edward Scissorhands is a film whose director is Tim Burton and scriptwriter is Caroline Thomson and was produced in 1991 by Twentieth Century Fox. The film of Edward Scissorhands is a horror movie that Tim Burton uses to convey the perception that the society holds onto that makes it a requirement for everyone to conform to the ways of life and culture of the people of that community. Conformity is the ability of individuals to correspond with standards, nature, and form; when everything is similar, identical, and congruous, then conformity is achieved. The central theme of the film is conformity, and Tim Burton, the Director of the movie, uses it throughout the work to show how the individuals interact with the society in which they live. This paper will look into the theme of conformity in the film Edward Scissorhands and explain how the director has used cinematic techniques to bring it out.

Edward Scissorhands is introduced into a community that has a lot of conformities where the houses are identical, and the residence resembles each other. In the film, the director shows that in a situation where two different societies are trying to mix conformity is not possible to be achieved. Therefore, due to the many positive and negative differences that Edward has he cannot fit into the new society. Tim Burton uses the differences in the characters in the film and the community they are living in throughout the work to bring out the theme of conformity which is critical in the movie. This scenario can be seen from how the community has houses that are all having one design and painted with one solid color. On the other hand conformity in characters is shown through the way they dress and act, all people in the film behave in a similar way and dress in same costumes. 

Tim Burton makes use of various cinematic techniques to show conformity in the film. The director uses aerial shots of the buildings as well as close up approaches on characters to show their resemblance. When Edward is brought to the new town, the people there see him as a stranger who does not fit in the society because of the differences that he has on his body. It is the first time for him to be in this town and he has nothing in common with the residence here. Edward has many physical differences on his body which make him unique, dangerous, and an outcast in the town. The character is different from the ordinary people in the town because he was made by an inventor who passed on before finishing creating his hands and now he has scissors for them. Edward uses his scissors to cut the peoples fences, do the haircut for dogs, and even haircuts for some of the women of the city, work that makes him more popular in the new society. His complexion is another thing that makes him unique. His face has scars that he got when he cut himself with his Scissorhands; he also has pale skin and wild hair. The viewers can see these differences that Edward possesses throughout the film vividly because Tim Burton uses different camera angles and many close-ups (Renne). The negative and positive differences that Edward has depicted how he is unique from other members of the community and that he does not conform to the way of life, culture and the people in the town. In spite of these differences Edward and his friends do not stop struggling to make him one of them and indistinguishable in the community.

Because of the unique complexion, Edward is noticeable with everyone in the society but not for a good reason but as an outcast who should not be in the community. As soon as Bogg took Edward to her home, everybody including the family members and friends were willing to make him part of them by making numerous attempts to change him to conform to the community. The people treated him with love like a family member and gave him new clothes, introduced him to the rules of the community as well as helped him set up his business. While trying to conceal some of the differences that make Edward look unlike from other members of the society Bogg tried applying makeup to cover up the scars in his face. The audience can hear Bogg say from the scene that “blending is the secret” a statement that Caroline Thomson, the scriptwriter of the film intended to make the audience realize that the only way for Edward to conform to the society is by blending into it (Burton and Thomson). This struggle to blend in is also seen in the scenes where Edward is offered a chance to see a physician to fix his hands, is invited to parties and barbeques and women trusting him with their hair. Edward even helps Jim to steal money something that he said that he did it “because you (Kim) asked me to do it” (Burton and Thomson). These actions reveal that Edward too was doing all it takes for him to conform so that people like Kim could value and see him as normal. In spite of these efforts of Edward to conform to society, he cannot overcome the people's mindset about him.

At the end of the movie, Edward leaves the town after failing to fit in because of his many differences. In the film, it seemed that the negative differences like the Scissorhands that Edward has will always make him different and a stranger whom most people would not like associating with him. Tim Burton at the end of the movie uses the technique of composition to show the viewers that it is not possible for Edward to conform to the new environment. The director also uses the approach of high and low key lighting to show the nonconformity that exists between the two different worlds that Edward encounters (Krause). Burton uses high key lighting in the town where Bogg lives while low lighting key in the house where Edward calls home. The darkness in the Edwards house that matches with his wild black hair and his lack of color shows that this is the kind of environment that he conforms to not in the town.


In the film of Edward Scissorhands the director Burton effectively uses the cinematic techniques to bring out the theme of conformity. From the movie, the viewers can realize that for one to conform into a community he or she has to blend in first. However, with negative differences like Scissorhands as in the case of Edward, it becomes challenging to achieve conformity however much one struggles because human beings do not readily change their negative attitude. In the film, Edward has to leave the town because his complexion made him always a stranger however much he tried to conform to society.

Works Cited

Burton T. and Thomson C. Edward Scissorhands (film). Twentieth  Century Fox, Florida USA, 1991.

Krause A. “Signs, you are watching a Tim Burton Movie,”  2014.

Renne V. “'Burtonesque': Breaking Down the Gothic Cinematic Style of Tim Burton.”   No Film schools. 2016

August 21, 2023




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