Sleepy Hollow and Traumatic Relationships

With these Tim Burton topics I’ve spent a lot of time on the weird, the out-of-the-ordinary, and its effect on creation. I don’t want to talk about that today. Nah, it’s a Thursday night and in honor of Tim Burton I want to speak out to those that might be a bit alone in the here and now.

Tonight I want to talk about Ichabod Crane and Katrina Van Tassell. I want to talk about broken relationships.

6c3ee9ce8e16ab3f24d0e4569922be21We each experience trial and tribulation, passion and pain, but building a relationship from that can be troublesome. Ichabod Crane is a man who feels marginalized, someone who is not only young blood in a dirty field but one that is trying to revolutionize it all. He’s a kind, sweet man that experienced a lot of dark shit in his youth but managed to turn into a caring individual outside of that. Each experience went to shape not only a decent person, but one that is staunchly against the faith that ruined his life and killed his mother. He now solves murders, fighting against the very experience that shaped him to make sure it happens as rarely has he can manage it. What he’s become is a broken individual that uses this pain to shape the experiences of others, most of the time at his own expense.

While Ichabod’s pain is told in flashbacks, Katrina is an open wound. Christina Ricci plays pain as it comes with all the finesse of a blunt instrument. She spends her time onscreen watching everyone she knows and many she cares about die in rapid succession, compartmentalizing it and moving forward with strength and power. She’s a witch, that helps, but it still combines pain and trauma with a desire to save those around her. With a story similar to that of Ichabod, that of the lost mother, she pushes further into what she has become to try to stem the tide of the nightmare her world has become. There’s literally a headless man roaming about, murdering those she cares about. When combined with her eventual love interest, they create an atmosphere of toxic romance.

There’s an interesting bit of personal interaction built into each of Tim Burton’s films, a romance that doesn’t work for one reason or another. I’ve touched on this in Edward Scissorhands, the idea that one can go on without the other. Edward and Kim are well-suited but she becomes trapped in conventions, choosing to stick with her standard life and viewpoints and boyfriend. Kim is eventually won over and spends the rest of her life living down the road from the one who truly loved her but never seeing him again. The question I posed was one of deserving, connection without real basis. Did she deserve Edward’s love and care?

sh_katrinaIn Sleepy Hollow, Burton tries something new. He chose to give his two leads the same pain and has them grow together, parallel to each other. Ichabod grows into a weak individual, smart but with little stomach. He has moments of heroism but is unable to even stay conscious for most of it. Katrina is the individual with power, using spells to put up barriers around Ichabod and her raw strength to fight for her own survival instead of relying on anyone else. Even her boyfriend, Brom Bones, is a beast in a fight but against someone he can’t fathom he is torn in two. Literally. Ichabod has forgone full life in favor of isolation. He doesn’t want to connect with his peers, he’s disdainful of them and beaten down by their lazy work ethic. Fighting to save everyone isn’t an easy task, but with the police force willing to take whatever easy way out they find it winds up being one that falls solely on him. Katrina fights for the same thing in her own way, but she keeps her life close to the vest and uses her abilities for them instead of all.

And they get together in the end. Does this not sit uncomfortably with anyone else?

Trauma is a bitch. It breeds toxicity and doubt within us. There are those that can find a rock in each other, I’ve seen it, but often when you bounce pain off of pain it can create a resentful attitude. Many avoid it by sinking into narcissism, becoming so self-focused that they can’t form a meaningful relationship. Others work to save everyone around them, even at the cost of their own lives. There’s a line in The Dark Knight Rises (it’s a good line, don’t @ me) where Catwoman tells Batman that he’s given the people everything and he reiterates that no, he hasn’t. He still has his life to give. This is Ichabod and Katrina, the soft warrior and the narcissist, working together to save a small community from a vicious murderer, and they don’t always work in sync. Frequently they argue or clash, but they wind up on the same page.

skepI’m not here to condemn or condone this type of relationship, I just want to talk about it. The film posits that these kinds of romantic entanglements can come together very quickly and exist as something stable but…can they? I’ve lived through relationships that came together quickly and were almost solely based on pain. They’ve never worked for me, usually ending in messy and frustrated arguments that go nowhere and leave everyone unhappy. I’ve also seen them be a rock in other people, a sturdy foundation that built up and became something over the course of time that fulfilled everyone involved. It’s a sticky question that doesn’t allow for much.

Katrina and Ichabod have no secrets from one another. He shares the murder of his mother with her and is there for almost every moment of her loss, watching everyone around her die. My only thought on how this can work is that pure openness, a lack of conventional interaction (for film time constraints, let’s be real) that forces them to move through the opening motions of a relationship very quickly. It’s through this that they find common ground and begin to move beyond that quick physical attraction and into something else.

I don’t know how to fully grasp all of this. Burton’s romantic relationships in film are fraught with discomfort and these strange imbalances that follow the pattern of a reacher and a settler. This is one of the only ones that makes some sort of attempt at giving them an even playing field. Ichabod’s mind and Katrina’s power/charisma coming together to form one full person. I leave it up to the reader to decide if these two broken people, their damage their bonding point, is something that provides a sturdy foundation for this kind of long-term relationship. Quick physical attraction and bonding through damage can provide a basis, but is it something lasting?

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