Saturday, October 02, 2004

He Thrusts His Fist Against the Post, He Still Insists He Sees a Ghost

Feeling rather maudlin lately, I have to admit. Catching myself falling into old, bad patterns again. Know I'm doing it, but can't seem to correct it. Case in point; dropping pronouns. Wrong. Shouldn't do it.

Watched Edward Scissorhands the other night, for the first time in years; possibly for the first time since the first time, if that makes any sense at all. Struck by both the consistency of concerns in the Burton oeuvre (heh-heh-heh . . . I said oeuvre) and its kinship to John Waters' work. Also connected deeply and pretentiously with the Artist as Freak/Outsider theme which is so simply and elegantly expressed. (Had to remind myself at one point--when the police officer shoots into the air, tells the suburban mob it's all over, and drives away--"No, it's OK. He can do that and it can makes sense, because this is a fable.") Only major problem with the film was the presence of Kathy Baker. Hate Kathy Baker.

Edward--and my god, has Johnny Depp been that good this whole time? My Non-Sexual Crush on him grows and grows--is so lost and unformed that he is all too willing to be defined by the people around him. He becomes, in effect, their work of art; they assign him roles to play, and as long as he plays along he is safe. To Mr. and Mrs. Boggs he is a child in need of guidance and protection; to the bored housewives he is a mystery and an object of eroticism; to young Kevin he is a toy; to Jim he is a nothing, a loser. Once he steps outside of these roles, things become difficult, and then impossible. Only Kim (and, perhaps, the police officer, who is also an outsider, a black authority figure in a white community) is able to see him as he is, although even she struggles with unrealistic expectations of romance.

There is another side to this, an even darker one; it almost seems that Burton is implying that not only is it impossible for Edward/the Artist to find a place in society, it is selfish and wrong for him to try. He has no right to desire Kim or the comfort of her family. He is foolish to expect to function within the regulations of society; for example, the wish to open a hair salon, imposed though it may be, is a foolish pipe dream. The Artist has nothing to offer the capitalist economy; no right to expect the sort of good and simple things (like family and home) that other "normal" people enjoy. Is this because Burton believes that the Artist, because of the perspective of the outsider which he or she possesses, is inherently incapable of enjoying these simple things? Or is it because the Artist does not possess the right tools (i.e., hands) for normal human interaction? It's not clear; but Burton seems to be implying that the Artist's place is outside of society, creating from a distance, disengaged.

I think this is all rather capital-R Romantic and self-pitying, and yet I also think there may be a germ of truth in it. There can be something selfish about Art; at the very least, something egoistic. Something more than the conviction that "I have something important to say." Writing, for example, is about the most solitary art I can think of; is there not something selfish about taking that time and shutting out the world? This, really, is the crux of my problem; I am feeling selfish. Hence the long and self-indulgent post. Nyargh.


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