Tim Burton and the culture of death


I’ve watched them. There is no bashing involved. Mr. Burton is promoting a dark view of reality. You don’t make a toy called the boy with nails in his eyes. This isn’t a matter of taste, this is about creating a psychological climate where people tend to become indifferent. That leads to either “art” is above criticism and deserves a free pass, or we, as Christians, become less discerning about what is right and wrong. That’s all I’m saying.



No one is forced to watch his movies. Those of us who like them can go, and those of you who don’t can stay away. Then everybody’s happy.

I liked Coraline, but then I’m very fond of the work of Mr. Gaiman upon whose book that is based. If I was forced to recommend ten comics to show the form can produce work of brilliance his ‘Sandman’ would be on that list somewhere, along with Mike Carey’s ‘Lucifer’ and works by Joe Sacco, Spiegleman, Eisner and a few others.

He seems to be a bit obsessed, but I don’t think he’s necessarily glorifying evil. For centuries people have been fascinated by legends of vampires, werewolves, the living dead. It’s no different now. As a side note, dark characters can be used to glorify good, think phantom of the opera or batman. Dark brooding characters, the products of trauma and bitter experience, wrestling their demons and working out their salvation, are the most interesting. I don’t get Burton so I usually don’t watch his movies.

Batman, as presented in the 1989 film, is the pre-robin Batman. Alot of people don’t know this, but before Robin was introduced and the later “Earth One/Earth Two” thing developed, Batman had no quarms about allowing criminals to die or even delibratly killing them. There’s one classic Comic Book where he guns down a gangsta in a car from the cockpit of the Batcopter with the intention of blowing the car up, without remorse. Burton’s Batman was a throw back to that era of the Batman character, and also obviously Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”. The introduction of the Robin character served to soften this image of Batman as an occasional vigilante killer, rather than just a typical heroic crimefighter(which is what he became on the introduction of the new partner character). Burton himself planned on following this particular thematic story arc, and actually planned for the debut of Robin in the 3rd Batman film, to the point of even casting Marlon Wayans in the role, he was one of the first actor’s to be payed for a film he never starred in as they payed him out so they could recast Robin as Chris O’donnell. Most of the script for Batman Forever was written while Burton was still involved in the project as the Director.

Final Director, Joel Schumacher, originally delivered a “final edit” of the film that was over 155 minutes long(before the studio decided to remove anything that was deemed too dark resulting in the choppy 120 minute theatrical film), and was pretty much the same script, so that theme on Batman giving up on killing people as he comes to grip with his young protege was intended to be played on by Burton as well.

Alot of fans also don’t seem to remember that the original Golden Era Origin story of the Joker IS mostly the story that was presented in the 1989 film, Batman, potentially delibratly, dropped him into the vat of chemicals at the Axis Chemical plant, turning him into the Joker. It is the canon origin story, despite later writers trying to make it “obscure” and “maybe it is, maybe it isn’t”.

I still believe Heath Ledger was affected by this part and that it did have something to do with it, as he was asked to portray an absolutly horrible character far worse than anything ever portrayed in a Burton film, that was also a total ruining of the Comic book Joker(see my earlier Origin story comment), at a time when he obviously had mental issues and issues with his ex-wife. Playing that character can’t have been good for his soul… It’s even darker than Brandon Lee’s character in the Crow.

Miller’s Batman does not kill in ‘The Dark Knight Returns’, he is dark and uses torture on numerous occassions and is a very scary individual indeed but he deliberately does not kill and even references not crossing that line in captions several times in the text of the story.

Batman stopped been portrayed as killer long, long before Earth one and Earth two became part of the DC universe backdrop. He was not portrayed as killing after the first year or two. You are quite right that Robin was introduced to try and soften things some what as it humanised Batman some to have another human to relate to instead of just been a grim avenger.

The sequence you are thinking of where Batman guns down someone is where he is piloting an auto gyro which he used as his flying vehicle of choice in the earlier stories, He does state ‘He hates to take human life but has no choice’ as I recall.

Joker as orginally introduced had no origin story and it took 11 years or so for the Axis chemicals one to be introduced. The early Joker is just as brutal as the version seen in the ‘Dark Knight’, although his insanity is more subtle.

Nevertheless, speaking strictly from Comic Book Canon, it’s the official Origin Story and always has been.

And Burton planned on having the 3rd film be about Robin’s origin story, involving Batman confronting Robin about his “thirst for vengence” and “giving up on being Batman” before remembering what happened to his parents(in perhaps the most infamous deleted scene from the 1990s, Suffering from Amnesia after being shot by Two-Face, He ventures into the ‘Original Batcave’ and finds his father’s diary as well as a nightmarish Bat statue), with Two-Face as the stand in for the Joker, and the Riddler being the lead “New” villian. The Script remained largely untouched going into production with the diffrent actors and director(with Burton relegated to producing it), but unfortunatly the final edit of the film rather famously didn’t(It’s still around somewhere as the extra “deleted” scenes can mostly be found).

I think there is an element of subjectivity involved, if we are evaluating artistic expression rather than moral statements in media. If you (the original poster) find Tim Burton’s work disturbing to your soul, I would not encourage you to watch his works. People have different levels of sensitivity and react differently.

Evaluated on a moral basis, I’d say Burton’s works don’t generally embrace the “culture of death”, properly understood as the devaluation of human life. Take Corpse Bride: it portrays people already dead, but doesn’t encourage the taking of innocent human life. A sorta-suicide is considered but prevented. A murderous villain gets his punishment, but nobody actually kills him.

I personally find Burton’s works uniquely moody, sometimes beautiful, sometimes wierd. And I can understand if some people find his work disturbing. But I would suggest that there are other movies out there more deservedly tagged as reflecting the Culture of Death.

I think Moore’s ‘Killing Joke’ was the best modern take on the Joker’s origin as it kept the essentials of the Axis Chemical story in there but who the Joker was as an individual human being prior to falling in the chemicals was left up to your interpretation. Was he really a failed stand up comedian prior to been coerced into bcecoming the Red Hood as the story suggests or is that part of the Joker’s maddness? The current Red Hood of course in the comics is the second Robin Jason Todd. Who I feel should have been left quietly dead. Although this is comics and no-one stays dead. Even Thomas Wayne was shown as a very brutal Batman in an alternate universe a short while back. Although in fairness he redeems himself by the end of that story and it does make sense in a large context. Or it did till DC rebooted every title, as usual however they did it in such a way that will guarantee the reboot button needing pressing soon again. I expect that, comics have a cyclical audience and their popularity has long been on the wane in any case.

I’m not a huge fan of Burton’s Batman, Keaton never struck me as believable as Wayne or Batman. The first movie is virtually owned by Nicholson and the Catwoman from the second irks me as Selina Kyle has had many interpretations over the years but I prefer something closer to a mix of the modern and classic era Catwoman. Although for outright just plain tastelessness a recent comic showing Batman and Catwoman having sex and talking dirty whilst in costume (so as not to reveal their identities to each other) was just vulgar.

Although for outright just plain tastelessness a recent comic showing Batman and Catwoman having sex and talking dirty whilst in costume (so as not to reveal their identities to each other) was just vulgar.

That we can agree on… the proper relationship shown in the Earth One Batman’s timeline, where Selina Kyle marries Bruce Wayne, was much more tasteful and when you think about it rather logical(as Vicky Vale was really always a minor love interest, and Selina is his “true love”).

But as I’ve said many times before in other discussions, the most insulting thing about the modern Batman comic book is how DC retconned Batwoman into a lesbian just for the sake of appealing to a minority audience, political correctness, and the minor publicity it was going to achieve. That was a total disgrace.

Anyway we’ve talked about Batman too long in this thread… better let other users discuss his other films and bring it back more on topic(with discussion of the '89 and '92 films if they think it appropriate).

Selina Kyle is Catholic so of course Bruce would pick her :slight_smile:

Tim Burton’s work is very dark but I’ve never seen it as representing a culture of death, he simply is gothic in his style. One should look past the trappings and note the undelying ethos as others have pointed out.

Quick final Batman bit - out of sheer pedanty it is on Earth Two Batman finally marries Selina and we eventually see them both die there as well. Selina first,shortly followed by her husband.


Still from Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride

For the bulk of his career (particularly the last 17 years or so), I’ve found Tim Burton to be all style and no substance. He’s pandering to a very specific audience: Goth/Emo kids. I don’t even think there’s any reason to believe his personal views have anything to do with it; he’s found a niche audience who worships him so he keeps churning out ridiculously over-stylized drivel and they keep slopping it up. As for me, I’d sooner rub lemon juice-soaked sand paper in an open wound than pay to see one of his movies.

No offense to the OP, but I don’t see how a fascination with all things dark and creepy automatically translates into evil. In fact, that’s more sinful than whatever the OP’s implying about Burton’s work.

Obviously, I’m a fairly big fan of the most popular films attributed to him (and for some strange reason, most of them also include my only true favorite actor, Johnny Depp). Aside from The Nightmare Before Christmas, I also enjoyed Corpse Bride, Sleepy Hollow, and though I have yet to have the guts to watch it, I enjoyed the version of Epiphany from his take on Sweeney Todd.

Yes his work is dark but frankly, I find such work a relieving counterbalance to shudder Christian counterculture alternatives. I can aesthetically relate more to lanky, brooding anti-heroes dressed in black than brash, blond-haired studs in shining armor. The former is actually closer to my own appearance. The latter is just the medieval version of an obnoxious football player.

I think it’s a bit of a stretch to go from Tim Burton’s obvious flair for the macabre to his therefore being an evangelist of the culture of death.

I understand why his films are not everyone’s cup of tea. But I don’t think that translates into them being pure evil.

He’s like the Edgar Allen Poe of Hollywood. :slight_smile:

May I respectfully point out that Catholics need to discern what is good or bad? Often, there are those who are against Church teaching who promote this view. Would you buy your little boy a toy called a boy with nails in his eyes, or give him the impression that Corpse Bride was “fun”? I cannot picture a little girl asking her mom for a Corpse Bride doll.

This only promotes the Dictatorship of Relativism. Our true happiness comes from imitating Christ and by thinking on those things that are truly beautiful and have some virtue, not on the ugly and ‘let’s have fun with dead or mutilated things.’


The only Burton films I enjoyed were “Batman” and “Edward Scizzorhands”…none of the others made my “boat float”…I cringe at what he’s doing to “Dark Shadows”…not really a Jonny Depp fan I guess…other than Edward Scizzorhands.

Hi Joe,

We have to be careful as Catholics. We should not buy our kids toys like a boy with nails in his eyes, just like we shouldn’t watch a TV show that has a lead character whose hobby is kidnapping people and instead of murdering them quickly, cuts them up into pieces while they are still alive. Mr. Burton is contributing to the Culture of Death along with others. He’s making the let’s have fun with dead and mutilated things idea acceptable.

That is quite different from previous works that have presented the grotesque, dead, or undead as truly scary and evil to “let’s embrace the darkness.” I am sick and tired of this.

And we should make right choices. Do we tolerate everything now? Do we imitate Christ by embracing the dark as fun? This sort of “I’m OK, You’re OK” kind of thinking means that we become indifferent to society and stop promoting a Culture of Life. It becomes: “It’s all OK and if you don’t like it, ignore it.” Can we afford to do that?

This can and does lead to: “If you’re against abortion then don’t have one.” If that’s the case, then why be against anything while, at the same time, being taught to spread the truth of Church of teaching to all? No, not by force, but by words and actions.


If they had made them, my daughter would have asked for a Corpse Bride doll and I wouldn’t have had any quelms in giving her one.

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