We watched Edward Scissorhands the other night, and I was struck I think this time by issues I hadn’t thought of previously.
As you no doubt recall, Edward, played by the wonderful Johnny Depp, (who is playing the Mad Hatter, I have just learned in the new “Alice in Wonderland,” by the eclectic Tim Burton) is a created being, whose inventor dies before being able to give him hands. He is thus left with an array of scissors attached to his arms. He lives in his own world in the castle at the end of the street of suburbia. He is discovered by the Avon lady, who takes him home as her personal “project.”
All manner of interesting things occur after this, as the neighborhood men but mostly women strain to meet and learn about this odd new person in their midst. It is quickly discovered that Edward has a talent for topiary, then clipping pets, and finally cutting women’s hair. His future seems secure, until he resists in confusion the seduction of the neighborhood vixen (the one who seduces all the repair men who enter her web). She turns viciously on his lack of interest, and starts whispering that he attacked her.
Then Edward is enticed into helping the real love of his life, daughter of the Avon lady, into helping break into her boyfriends home. Edward is caught. The police learn that he has never had a proper upbringing on issues of right and wrong, and he is released, only to save the Avon lady’s son from being hit by a van, while slightly injuring him.
By now the neighbors are intent on driving him out,or killing him as evil. The upshot, is that they think him dead and he returns to his castle, living alone with his topiary and ice sculptures.
From the start, Edward is pushed into conforming to the status quo of the neighborhood. His new “step mom” immediately gives him new clothes to wear, finding his leather suit inappropriate. When his talents are discovered, the husband starts explaining to him about getting into a career and being like others. After his arrest and release, he is told about the morality requirements of social living.
Edward is quite acceptable when he can and is used to satisfy the neighbors’ needs for novelty or because he can function as a service person to their everyday needs. When he turns out to be “different” he is just another “other” in the world and to be expelled quickly.
The boy-man is more a toy than a human being to them. His views are not solicited, and his comments are largely ignored. He is merely presented and told what to do and how to be. When he cannot or will not comply, there is no further use for him.
I juxtapose this against Tobias from the HBO series OZ. Oz is a prison section, some sort of experimental section, but unnatural in many ways. Lifers are housed with first timers who are doing short time. Poor Tobias is a lawyer, who drunkenly killed a small child with his car and is “made an example of.” He is soon the bitch of a white supremacist, not by choice of course, but he soon learns that it may be better than other alternatives offered him.
He quickly conforms to what mere months ago would have been anathema to him. His instincts for justice, when another inmate is on death row for a “murder” most everyone commonly knows was self-defense, urges him to let it be. He refuses until other inmates make it clear that his life may hang in the balance. He decides that justice ain’t so great after all.
Which all raises the issue of how much we demand that those we “help” are required to be what we want or expect them to be in order to receive our gifts of assistance. I suspect we do have expectations and when the recipients of our aid don’t act in approved ways, we are quick to draw back.
We served lunch yesterday. I found it hysterical that the kids were so demanding on what they did and did not want from the menu. Kids are picky, and that doesn’t change whether they have refrigerators full of food or not. Adults are more accepting, but even here, many wanted this, not that, more of this other.
I recall, as we hurried along trying to prepare trays, while getting special requests which required more attention, feeling, “hey this is free, take what is offered and be quiet!” No one said such a thing. Every request was honored, and they should be honored. Human beings have the right of choice, and being poor doesn’t eliminate that.
A percentage of the homeless don’t want the responsibility of apartments and jobs. You can’t help them by giving them that. Many do, don’t get me wrong, but some have opted out of the society that places those burdens on people. Offering them low cost housing and jobs isn’t what they want. They aren’t lazy. They are not able to cope with the stress of such responsibility. We need to adjust our help accordingly in some cases. I’m not sure we do.
See our realities are our own. Much as some insist that there is but one truth, one reality, that is simply belied by the facts. My reality is that going to jail would be impossible to withstand. I adjust my behavior accordingly. Others don’t view that experience as the end of the world, and they behave differently.
I don’t mean that I don’t commit crimes and they do, but rather that I am careful not to give the “appearance” of doing something wrong, while they may do things that allow police a better chance to come to the wrong conclusion about them. Do you see the difference? In fact, the very place they live places them at greater risk, and means they must be more vigilant than I need to be.
It seems to me, we don’t spend nearly as much time as we should on trying to vision the world through the eyes of other people. Maybe if we did, we might learn a thing or two, and maybe we might learn how to help better, and maybe we might learn to see the “other” as us. I don’t know. I just think these things at times. Do you?