Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Headscratchers: Beetle Juice
  • One thing in Beetlejuice has always bothered me. Adam and Barbara decide that they need to scare the Deetzes away by themselves, and they work out two really grotesquely distorted faces that'll do the trick. Their afterlife case worker Juno approves, and she sends them back to Earth. But wait a minute: the Deetzes, except for Lydia, can't see Barb or Adam. It doesn't matter how hideous they look, the rest of the family's just going to look right through them without seeing anything, like they've been doing. And just as you'd expect, the only person Adam and Barbara actually, unintentionally scare once they get back is Lydia. Now, I can understand the two of them making that mistake, since they're still coming to grips with the way being a ghost works. But why in the world didn't Juno see the flaw in their plan?
    • Cracked caught that one too in their movie satire.
    • The only Wild Mass Guess the same troper can come up with is that there must be some way for ghosts to make normal people see them, since Betelgeuse could always do so. Maybe Juno just assumed the Maitlands had already figured out how to make themselves visible.
    • It isn't that people can't see ghosts, they ignore them as if they don't exist. Lydia doesn't ignore it so she can see them. Lydia even mentions this! Once they pulled their all too fun prank (they thought that would scare people) the members of the Deetz family now believed and were willing to see (notice how quick almost everyone else except the Deetzes are to dismiss it despite there being no real explanation for them to suddenly start dancing and singing then get attacked by their food). They only did the exorcism when they couldn't find them. I would assume however there is a way to make people notice them my guess is after the song and dance number the Deetzes at the very least could see them.
      • Remember rule number two from the Handbook: "The living usually won't see the dead." Won't, not can't.
    • They could have terrorized Lydia to insanity or death. It may have even have been part of the talk they had with Juno, but didn't actually have any plans to follow through on.
  • Another element that Headscratchers, though it's not really a problem with the movie, is that this troper always wanted to learn more about "Saturn" and the sandworms. Was it the real planet Saturn (seems pretty unlikely, with Saturn being a gas giant and all), or another dimension with the same name (since stepping out of the house takes them there, maybe it's a parallel ghost reality)? The Other Wiki says that in an earlier draft, it was called Titan rather than Saturn (which might explain the giant moon in the sky: that's probably Saturn itself), and that might still work, since Betelgeuse says "you've been to Saturn" (he didn't say they've been "on" Saturn, so maybe he meant the Saturn moons). The sandworms could apparently see and eat ghosts, which just adds to strangeness of it all. There's no way the movie could've gotten into the details without bogging things down, but there's so much mystery behind that plot element, and Saturn and its sandworms are just so weird and cool that I'd love to hear the writers talk more about what they had in mind.
    • Saturn is clearly another part of Hueco Mundo and the Sandworms are Hollows, which is why they eat ghosts(Wholes).
      • That actually explains a lot...
  • It's nitpick time! After the Big B plays his commercial on the attic TV, Adam tries to pronounce his name and gets it wrong. Yay, humor. But the way he mispronounces it is "beetlegeiss", in essence. HOW?! Show me any word in any language where an "eu" diphthong makes a long I sound! At most, he should've messed up on the side of German, where "eu" gets pronounced as "oy". And going further, how is it that he got that wrong, but somehow "knew" the first E should be long? How many "average" people read a complex word for the first time and only mess up one bit of it?
    • Such is the way of the Baldwin. It is far more enlightened and erudite than our own, to question a Baldwin in anyway is madness.
      • "Geuse" looks like "guise", which is a homophone for "guys", so he probably misread it as "guise" and mispronounced it (the character or the actor? I don't know) as "gice".
      • Alec Baldwin can see into his own future, and sometimes confuses which time period he is in. In an upcoming episode of 30 Rock, expect him to mention working for "Don Juice".
    • AFAIK, Betelgeuse is pronounced "Beetlejuice".
    • I've heard it pronounced "Betel-guys" by more than one person (it's a mistake, but a very common one), so saying "beetle-guys" isn't that much of a stretch.
      • He also mispronounced deceased as diseased and apparently could never get an A in science in his life. It's implied that Adam isn't exactly bright.
  • There's a scene in the film where Juno the afterlife caseworker chews the Maitlands out for various offenses including letting Betelgeuse out and not putting him back, or words close to that. Here's what I'm wondering: just how were they supposed to do that? Saying his name three times turns him loose in the first place. Okay, I get that. It seems like saying his name three more times ought to send him back where he came from, but in the film all it seems to do is stop whatever shenanigans he's up to and send him back to the model town (for example, during that Nightmare Fuel scene with the banister-snake). But when he's in the model town, saying his name three times brings him out into the real world again. So just how are you supposed to get rid of him?
    • I think what Juno's referring to is that you say his name three more times to seal him away again (like they were trying to do near the end of the movie, during the wedding). Barbara didn't do that: she just said "home home home" and it took them back to the attic. BG was still on the loose, though, which is how he was able to reappear as the giant snake and terrorize the Deetzes. That's the first time they used his name to stop him. As for why he doesn't totally vanish... well, it does render him totally harmless and confined to the model town, so my guess is that the model town is just his window into the Maitlands' world. He can't really get in without being summoned and, if they'd just ignored him long enough, he would've gotten bored and found someone else to haunt.
    • Well, the first time they say his name, it zaps the Maitlands to the model town, where they dig him up. Barbara then says "Home" three times, and it zaps them out. When Lydia says "Beetlejuice" three times, it finally lets him out of the model. In the climax, nobody actually gets to say "Beetlejuice" three times again, since he gets smooshed by the sandworm. The rules don't really make sense.
      • The first time, I don't think saying his name is what really took them to the model town: it released BG, and then he pulled them into the model town so he could make his dramatic cemetery entrance. He stayed released after that, which Juno griped about, and then he made his next big appearance as the snake, when they belatedly resealed him. Then he stayed sealed until Lydia released him, and then he got eaten by a sandworm, which apparently sent him back to the waiting room to start his afterlife over again. There's lots of Rule of Cool going on (I'll never understand how Barbara rode a sandworm through the roof of the house!), but the summoning makes some sense: he got summoned twice, one of them ending with him being dispelled, and the other with him getting eaten.
      • I was always under the impression that saying his name three times (letting him out and putting him back) is actually a spell that gives him license to influence reality. The first time the Maitlands say his name three times, it "lets him out" and his first action is shrinking them into the model town, rather than the words actually transporting them there. When Barbara says "Home" three times, he, for some reason, humors her whim and lets them go back, knowing they'll need his help again. My big question was "To what extent can he use his powers without his name being called?" because, even before being "let out", he's able to broadcast his commercial on their (life-sized) TV.
      • Watch how Betelgeuse acts during when Barbara says "Home" three times - there's no way he's the one sending them back. More likely is that the Rule of Three just has a place of power in the afterlife, hence Betelgeuse's limitation in the first place. I think the I.J.B.M. two entries up is the full explanation.
      • Rule of Three absolutely has power in the afterlife, remember in case of emergency, draw a door and knock three times.
      • Huh. I thought Juno was just pissed at them because she explicitly told them not to use his name, and they did it anyway.
  • It bugs me that a simple viewing of the movie makes it clear that the title is Beetle Juice and the character is Betelgeuse, and yet people are constantly spelling both as Beetlejuice.
    • After the movie, there was an animated series about him, that gave him the respelling of Beetlejuice. You might also notice that he never says his own name in the movie, perhaps because he can unsummon himself, and doesn't want to risk it? So he unintentionally misspells his name, to conform to the then current 'pronunciation' of that star... Maybe it works for him a bit like The Game, or Harry Dresden's vocal components?
    • I always took it that whatever sealing magic was put on Beetlejuice to keep him from influencing the real world also prevents him from saying his own name, as the above Troper mentions. By extension, he would also be prevented from writing his name out (at least with the correct spelling). Presumably these restrictions would be in place to prevent him from summoning himself or someone else from accidentally summoning him. Anyway, the end result of all this is that the film's name is the character's name and the ad just had an alternate spelling due to the seal. I will stop overthinking this now...
    • But "Betelgeuse" is the way you actually spell the red giant's name. (That or "Betelgeux", it's optional.) You'd think that an advertisement for Beetle Juice's services wouldn't be so hard to pronounce, since he needs people to say the name out loud, correctly, thrice. Perhaps he isn't aware of how much less of a well known term that star name is now compared to when he died, or maybe he just can't spell worth a fuck himself.
      • Right, so what I'm saying is that Beetlejuice can't write out his own name as it is actually spelled ("Beetlejuice") and thus is forced to write out a homonym ("Betelgeuse") in order to get people to say his name at all.
    • The funny thing is that the confusion seems to be intentional on the part of the film-makers too: The opening credits actually say "and Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice", and the end credits say "Betelgeuse - Michael Keaton"!
      • Alternatively, the name was originally Betelgeuse throughout, but Executive Meddling made them change the title to Beetlejuice because they thought a movie with an unpronounceable-looking name would scare people off (and also wanted a sillier-looking title to reflect the movie's actual content, rather than a vaguely sci-fi star name that would be misleading to anyone who actually recognized it.) And, presumably, it was inconsistently updated after that change, especially since some things might have been shot or set up before the switch and never updated.
  • My problem was that the movie never makes it clear as to what Betelgeuse is. He's apparently decaying and has the powers of a ghost, yet, when the sandworm crashes down on him, it has apparently killed him, because we next see him in the Waiting Room. So, can ghosts die again, or was he a living being? Is he the the star of the same name? Explain, movie!
    • Well, the janitor pointed out to the Maitlands that ghosts can be exorcised, which is "Death for the dead". So, apparently, already dead spirits can experience other stages of "death". Apparently being exorcised is not the only way of "dying" if you're already dead. As to what Betelgeuse actually is, no clue, but I bet it would be really fascinating. Anybody acquainted with the writers?
    • He is a ghost who used to work for Juno. Simple as that. The film is quite unambiguous about it. (Ghosts in this film can be eaten by sandworms, yes: they're like watch dogs to make sure you don't try to escape your haunting grounds. The whole thing was probably cooked up for that purpose. You're back in the waiting room after being eaten by them because you've committed an offense by trying to go against the haunting rules.) What the film doesn't tell you, and I am quite intrigued about, is who Betelgeuse was when he was still alive. Now that would make for an interesting prequel.
      • He does say that he "lived through the Black Plague," so if he meant that literally, he's been a ghost for a very, very long time (which, along with having worked with Juno, might explain his powers - he probably knows every last rule in the afterlife and how to game the system for all it's worth).
      • My Wild Mass Guess pertains to why Betelgeuse says he has to get married: He needs a new body. My notion is that what we see as "Betelgeuse" (the moldering corpsey-looking guy essayed by Michael Keaton) is just the host body. The real Betelgeuse inhabits the body and uses it for his purposes until it's too worn out to keep (and turning into a giant snake can wear a body out something fierce, I should think). And Lydia's the youngest living person there, so... This does beg the question of Betelgeuse's true form. But I like to think that the giant beetle in the little rocking chair (the one that appears when Betelgeuse tries to get Lydia to say his name by playing Charades) was what Betelgeuse really looks like.
      • One of the shooting scripts has Juno mention that Betelgeuse was demoted to a Class 6 Malevolent Spirit - whatever one of those is. Of course, it didn't make it into the movie, but it's almost canon, huh?
  • When Delia and Otho are in the bathroom discussing colors, he spraypaints a symbol (shaped like an Ichthys rotated 90 degrees) on the wall while prattling on about the color viridian and his brief career as a hair analyst. What does that symbol have to do with anything? Is it a "V"? Is it supposed to represent color or some kind of chemistry?
    • I don't think it is a symbol. It's like when you randomly scribble onto paper to show someone what color the ink of the colored pen is. The scribble is...just a scribble. He was doing that while demonstrating the color of veridian and explaining its chemical compound. He could just as well have scribbed a vague V as a straight line, or for that matter, a recognizable smiley face. The demonstration of the chemical itself was the point.
      • If anything, the "V" probably stands for "veridian". It's not to tell him that it's veridian or anything, it just came to mind for that reason.
  • During the climactic, "wedding" scene, why does it take everyone so long to say Beetlejuice's name three times? Take Barbara - when she said his name the first time, he turned her mouth into a zipper, which she then unzipped and said his name a second time, causing him to throw a metal plate on her mouth. During the time he was getting ready to throw the plate like a pitcher, Barbara had more than enough time to say "Beetlejuice" a third time. What was with the incredibly long pauses? Especially since she said his name three times very fast when he was in snake form. All I can think of is that she was still exhausted from nearly being exorcised.
    • Talking isn't a free action, but everything else is?
    • On that note, why didn't either of the Deetze's say his name? They heard Betelguese making a big fuss over it when Barbara said his name? Wouldn't they have realized that saying his name was important? Sure, Delia might not have, but her husband was suppossed to be the sane one of the bunch.
    • They were a bit tied up at the moment. Even still, as far as the Deetzes knew, ghosts had taken over their home and they had lost control of the entire situation, forced to watch helplessly while restrained. If you even think about it, the Deetzes have never heard of Beetlejuice's name before Barbara said anything. For all they knew, she was starting some ritualistic spell or chant to send him back. In that situation, who would be able to guess the chant would be as simple as "say this three times" without prior knowledge.
  • Why did the Deetzes keep the Maitlands' wedding clothes? Especially if Delia wanted "everything to go?"
    • If I remember correctly, one of the characters joked about going to the thrift store, and then Delia's face lit up. Maybe they had gotten rid of it nearby and just bought it back?
    • They weren't able to get into the attic until near the end of the movie. Maybe the wedding clothes were in there?
      • The wedding clothes were in a closet in one of the bedrooms, Delia and Otho find them shortly after moving in.
      • The thrift store wasn't mentioned as a joke. Otho said that in order to perform the ritual, he'd need something that belonged to the dead couple. Lydia told him he'd have to go to the Goodwill, probably in an effort to get them all to drop the idea (since it was at night and the Goodwill wasn't open, it couldn't be done immediately). But Delia remembered the wedding clothes still being in the closet, which enabled them to go through with it. I'm thinking that perhaps the real estate agent, who did say she was related to them, may have requested that they give the wedding clothes to her and this simply hadn't happened yet, which is why they were still in the closet. That, or the room in which they were kept in the closet hadn't been used/redecorated yet, so Delia simply hadn't gotten around to getting rid of the clothes.
  • Even allowing for the passage of time while the Maitlands were in the waiting room, wasn't Barbara's greedy realtor cousin able to swoop in and sell the house pretty damn fast? One assumes they paid their taxes and were at least up to date on the mortgage, and a search for other possible heirs to take it over can't be done instantly, can it? I guess It Just Bugs Me all the more because the realtor-cousin is one of those annoying bit characters who never seem to be the targets of any comeuppance. It's one thing when a main is Karma Houdini—its another when its this off to the side, never seen again maroon.
    • Did she really do anything wrong? The Maitlands happened to die right when the Deetzes were in the market for a new house. The cousin was probably the only next of kin, and wanted to sell the house and settle their affairs as quickly as possible. I wouldn't be surprised if the Maitlands owned the house free and clear and Mr. Deetz offered to pay cash up front.
      • Her hunger right at the start to sell that house (and the indications from Barbara that she was constantly asking about this) makes me wonder about the whole transaction. While it is possible that one cousin from both their families was their closest/only kin, it still strikes me odd.
      • I dunno, she did seem genuinely upset while selling the house (greedy too, but upset), and the story never mentioned Adam and Barbara having any closer relatives than Jane. If they were each only children whose parents had died, she might have been the next of kin (or one of them might have even named her in a will - maybe half-jokingly at the time, like 'well, if Jane really wants the house so much, it'll be hers eventually').
    • Even if she didn't inherit the house, she may have offered to sell it for whoever did, and that person opted to let her since she was local and knew the property. Works either way.
  • What did Juno and Betelgeuse die of? They might be suicides, if you interpret the "suicides become civil servants" joke as canon, with the evidence of Ms Slit-Wrists, and Mr Hanging, and if you assume that this means every civil servant in the afterlife committed suicide. I wonder how?
    • Perhaps death from smoking is considered long-term suicide. As for Beetlejuice, perhaps poison.
      • Juno probably slit her own throat (you can see smoke drifting out through a horizontal cut in her neck). Beetlejuice probably wasn't a suicide, just trying to score political points by volunteering, then working his way up the ladder to obtain power, but got bored with it or realized it would be quicker to get what he wants through rule-breaking instead.
      • She didn't slit her throat, she's had a tracheotomy (the surgical removal of a cancerous voice box).
      • If Betelgeuse was speaking truthfully about being alive during the Black Plague, he might have accidentally killed himself by mercury poisoning, which would be in keeping with his character, given what it was used to treat.
  • In the afterlife waiting room, there are two ghosts that clearly died from animal attacks, the skin diver with the shark on his leg, and the guy in the sleeping bag with the rattlesnake tail sticking out... did the animals die in the attack, too?
    • They choked?
    • The sleeping bag guy's hair is splayed out wildly, perhaps he and the rattlesnake were electrocuted.
  • Something has bugged me about this movie since I was a kid: Why is Juno so useless? She keeps the Maitlands waiting in a waiting room long enough to make their situation worse. She then berates them for things they had no way of knowing, offers no help, explains exactly how to contact Beetlejuice, and then tells them not to do it. She is asked, "How do we contact you if we need you again?" and gives no answer.
    • Social workers in real life are overworked, undertrained, and given limited resources to do their jobs with. It's a crazy, stressful, thankless job that tends to seep out into their cases. There are obviously more people dying and wanting to talk to their social worker than there are people committing suicide to fill the positions.
  • The Maitlands are told several times to read the handbook. Why can't they make any sense of it?
    • That's part of the joke - the handbook is clearly complicated, dull, and hard to grasp for almost everybody - the exceptions seem to be Lydia and Otho.
  • So who puts the handbook in people's houses? Why is it a physical object the living can manipulate? Shouldn't the dead be put in a waiting room when they die and then handed the book as a part of their orientation? Obviously there are forces at work which decide on who gets to be a ghost and decided the Maitlands qualify and made sure they got to the house and ensured the book was there for them - why leave everything so confusing?
  • What happenens after their 125 year haunting is over?
    • I presume they finally join the queue to await... whatever happens next. Which may be heaven or hell, but if what we've seen so far is anything to go by, is most likely a very long wait.
  • In the animated series, why did Beetlejuice have pink fingertips? They weren't shown in the movie so they must have some meaning...
    • Just makes them look weird and wormy.
    • It was a story board joke about Beetlejuice fingering Lydia while she was menstruating. They threw it in as an in-joke.
  • If Beetlejuice didn't just tell Lydia his name because he didn't want her to be able to tell others, then why did he play the game of charades which resulted in the exact same thing (her knowing his name)?
    • That's why I think that whatever hex Beetlejuice is under doesn't allow him to say his own name (or write it out). It makes a few of the scenes make a bit more sense (particularly that one and the ad in the newspaper spelling his name "Betelgeuse" like the star). When he gives Lydia the excuse about how "she'd tell her friends and they'd tell their friends" or whatever he's just trying to dodge the question. He's basically permanently jinxed.
    • In Howls Moving Castle, the Witch tells Sophie that part of the curse is that she can't TELL anybody about the curse (you occasionally see her trying, and they guess, but she can't talk about it). That gave me the idea that BJ can't tell people his name, he can't write it, etc. It's an attempt to keep him in place but the charades is a loophole.
  • If everyone in death looks like when they died, shouldn't the Maitlands then look more like drowned corpses?
    • Really, they should look like normal people. They wouldn't be bloated or anything until after they died. Kinda like Freddy Krueger, his body burned down to the bones, but he has the melted-skin look of the moment he died.
    • They show up in their house wet, but dry off. If we apply a Fanon theory from Ghostbusters, ghosts tend to take on a physical (well, ectoplasmic) state befitting their mental state. The Maitlands are wet at first because that's how they died... but they're still mentally whole so they dry off after awhile like they'd expect to normally. They'd probably start to look like drowned corpses if they obsessed with how they died.
    • The answer is fairly prosaic, The director thought being wet throughout the scene would make the actors uncomfortable. He might have also been considering that such treatment can also drive up actor salaries because it's considered a sort of "hazard pay" situation.
    • They also didn't drown. They died from the crash. Note Bab's broken neck.
  • This troper understands that ghosts have a limited ability to warp reality. However, how was BG able to freely roam from one place to another when any outside jurisdiction leads to Saturn?
    • He knows the system better than most and knows all the ways around the restrictions.
BeerfestHeadscratchers/FilmBeing John Malkovich

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy