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Posted on January 1, 2016

Beetlejuice and the Invisibility of Childless Couples


I’m going to be honest with you; I really just wanted to watch Beetlejuice (1988). What emerged was completely unintended. As horror reviewers and academics we tend to read into things for postmodern interpretations of the world around us. As horror fans, sometimes we just want to sit back and indulge in some of our favorite films. Unfortunately our brain doesn’t always get the message to just sit down and shut up. That is exactly what happened on the way to Winter River, Connecticut, when I tried to join the Maitlands for a lazy Sunday afternoon. For those of you nay-sayers, yes I know that Beetlejuice is characterized as Comedy Fantasy—but, it’s my party and I’ll review it if I want to.

While my brain was supposed to be turned off, I realized something about this movie: it is all about Lydia. The film reads like a foreign adoption story about a childless couple wandering the earth until they are made into a real family via the addition of a child. What I found most interesting about Beetlejuice was the way that Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) Maitland are devalued and almost irrelevant to the outside world until they find Lydia. This is by no means a commentary on their relationship as Tim Burton masterfully paints them as an ideal couple before and after their introduction to Lydia. It instead reflects on the way that the world around them emphasizes and validates couples with children.

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