Tim Burton’s richly imagined, bittersweet fantasy stars Johnny Depp as Edward, a young man assembled by an eccentric inventor (Vincent Price), who dies before he can finish his creation, leaving him with scissors in place of hands.
When a kindly Avon lady named Peg comes calling at the late inventor’s Gothic castle and discovers Edward all alone, she brings him home to live with her family in the pastel “paradise” of suburbia. Not even Peg’s expert application of Avon products can help with those nasty nicks Edward has given himself, and with his stark-white complexion, wild nest of black hair, metal extremities, and awkward gait, he cuts a rather alarming figure. But our hero, in spite of his inherent ability to harm anyone he touches with his razor-sharp digits, is a sweet, gentle soul who just wants to be loved. Soon, he wins the neighbors over with his exceptional talents in dog grooming, hair cutting, and topiary sculpting. But things start to go south when he falls for Peg’s teenage daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder), whose bully of a boyfriend (Anthony Michael Hall) views him as “not even human.” Depp, in his first collaboration with Burton, speaks only 169 words throughout the entire movie, using his eyes and body language to communicate his longing to be part of a world he can never truly know.
Edward Scissorhands raises the question of what it means to be human. Unlike Edward, we weren’t built out of component parts in a crumbling castle atop a hill. But what’s our own story? When and how did we come by the feet, hands, and brains that hold the key to the upright walking, tool-making, and higher-level thinking that define us as human? Recent discoveries tell a fascinating story of mosaic evolution, in which different parts of us reached their modern form at different times in our evolutionary history.
About the speaker
Jeremy DeSilva, an assistant professor of biological anthropology at Boston University, is working on reconstructing the life of two amazingly complete skeletons of a new species of early ancestor (or hominin) previously unknown to science. Join us as he talks about the strange conglomeration of parts found in these mosaic creatures – the odd legs and feet, the brain, and, yes, the hand – and describes the ways in which they were and were not human. These new fossils, found almost by accident, are revealing that human evolution is much more complex– and interesting – than we ever could have imagined.
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