When I was seventeen or so, I don’t think there could have been a director as hand-designed for me as Tim Burton. First he introduced me to my highschool celebrity crush, Winona Ryder, in Beetlejuice. Then he made Batman dark and interesting again. Then he topped it all in 1990 with Edward Scissorhands where her plumbed the misfit, underground alterna-goth psyche and produced a film that defined a generation of freaks.
Though Winona was (unfortunately) blonde this time out, 21 Jumpstreet’s 2nd-rate bubble-gum heart-throb, Johnny Depp, unexpectedly mezmerized us with his Robert Smith-meets-Frankenstein take on the titular role. And with Breakfast Club nerd Anthony Michael Hall playing a beefed-up, meat-head jock, it was a signal the ’80s were over and the ’90s were going to wash away the Reagan-era glitz and reveal the grungey underbelly of our consumerist society.
In 1990, in bummed-out bedrooms across the continent, you were guarunteed to find three things. A Jane’s Addiction tape, a Cure poster and a 2nd-generation VHS dub of Edward Scizzorhands.
So, for years afterwards, if you asked me if I liked Tim Burton movies, I’d say, “Yeah, I love Burton.” I say it without hesitation, without even thinking about it.
Bossom (and urethra?) buddies, Depp and Burton.
Then something funny happened. I thought about it. And I realized I kind of didn’t like Tim Burton movies. I could appreciate them for their uniqueness—the Tim Burton brand remained very defined and very specific over the years—but I couldn’t honestly say I enjoyed them much.
Even with old Edward, nostalgia only took me so far. His movies had taken on a cloying juvenile quality, somehow saccarine in their darkness. And worse, the newer films had a bit of a cookie-cutter feel to them. “Burton” had truly become a brand, like Disney or Pixar, simply rearranging the same elements in a different order in each film (i.e., Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter). The Burton brand had, what I would never have believed possible in 1990, become populist and boring. Burton movies remain unique, but they’re no longer original.
Here is the Stand Up For Your Gay Friends video from Ireland we talk about near the end.
Giant Tim Burton reccuring collaborators table after the cut (from Wikipedia).