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This is a "Wild Mass Guess" entry, where we pull out all the sanity stops on theorizing. The regular entry on this topic is elsewhere. Please see this programme note.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sweeney didn't want to be a barber in the first place
He wanted to be a lumberjack. Leaping from tree to tree as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia . . . The giant redwood, the larch, the fir, the mighty scots pine. The smell of fresh-cut timber! The crash of mighty trees! With his best Girlie by his side, they'd sing, sing, sing!

Todd: I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay. I sleep all night and I work all day.

MOUNTIES: He's a lumberjack, and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

Todd: I cut down trees. I eat my lunch. I go to the lavatory. On Wednesdays I go shoppin' And have buttered scones for tea.

MOUNTIES: He cuts down trees. He eats his lunch. He goes to the lavatory. On Wednesdays he goes shoppin' And has buttered scones for tea. He's a lumberjack, and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

Todd: I cut down trees. I skip and jump. I like to press wild flowers. I put on women's clothing And hang around in bars.

MOUNTIES: He cuts down trees. He skips and jumps. He likes to press wild flowers. He puts on women's clothing And hangs around in bars?! He's a lumberjack, and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

Todd: I cut down trees. I wear high heels, Suspendies, and a bra. I wish I'd been a girlie, Just like my dear Papa.

MOUNTIES: He cuts down trees. He wears high heels, Suspendies, and a bra?! [talking] What's this? Wants to be a girlie?! Oh, My! And I thought you were so rugged! Poofter! [singing] He's a lumberjack, and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day. He's a lumberjack, and he's okaaaaay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

  • ... That is the most bizarre thing I've ever read.
  • You were right!
  • Or perhaps instead of buttered scones he has shepherd's pie.

One or more of the characters is a Time Lord.

The film version's cast is the commedia dell'arte troupe from hell.
Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett are the zanni gone horribly wrong- in a love hate relationship, both scheming their heads off with a private agenda, and both supposedly in positions of service- Todd obviously as a barber, Lovett a... humanitarian piemaker but a piemaker nonetheless. Anthony and Johanna are obviously the innamorati. Judge Turpin and Beadle Bamford are the vecchi, attempting to prevent their marriage by any means necessary- except Turpin's, well, a rapist. And by extrapolation, Pirelli gets to be Il Capitano.
  • But there are characters that don't fit the mould...I'd say the film merely shares archetypes with the commedia dell'arte tradition, and is not quite inspired by it...then again, you have some cool points.
    • Please explain! I want to hear what doesn't fit!

The film's Toby grows up to be Jack the Ripper.
Think about it: he's an abused boy from the moment we see him, up until Sweeney kills Signor Pirelli and Mrs. Lovett basically adopts him. Afterwards, she treats him lovingly like the mother he's been portrayed to never have had. At the end, Mrs. Lovett locks him in the cellar with the intent to kill him for knowing too much, and then he watches Sweeney throw her into the furnace. It's enough to drive him insane. Now, couple this with the fact that the story takes place in roughly the same time-frame that would allow Toby to grow up into this persona and the fact that, in the late 19th century barbers were still the place to go for minor surgical procedures where Toby could have watched and studied Sweeney in his work, plus a little hatred of women because of Mrs. Lovett's betrayal and you have a perfect formula for a serial killer. Why only prostitutes? They were usually without family and were always out on the streets alone at night. Easy, forgettable targets.
  • DUDE. THAT IS COOL.
  • Johnny Depp being in From Hell (a Jack the Ripper movie costarring Hagrid) makes this even cooler.
    • Except From Hell totally sucked. I wanted Johnny to be Jack, not some junkie! But this theory is way too cool to be an epiliptic tree. It makes me want to write really gory fanfiction.
  • Y'know what'd make this a hat trick of cool? What if the Ripper murders were done using Sweeney Todd's razors? He'd have five more murders by proxy! Well, if he really had existed...
    • Well, you gotta do something with them... (In this troper's personal continuity, Johanna kills Jack the Ripper. With her dad's razors, of course. Mostly spawned by the deliberate misinterpretation of fanart.)
    • Sweeney Todd did exist.
      • Or not. Anything is possible but research into crimes at the Old Bailey and other researches by historians have found no clue that there was an actual murderer named Sweeney Todd or anyone who dispatched their victims in this way. However, there were many legends and tales about cannibalistic meat pie vendors and gruesome murderers, any of these could have been based on or inspired by some crime that does not come down to us. A mad serial-killing butcher killing people with a straight edge razor could have existed in the first part of the 1800s. Sweeney Todd (as a named person living in the 1800s) most probably did not exist.
  • Also on the Toby-as-Ripper front— if you go with one of the productions with a sturdy, matronly older Lovett (as opposed to HBC's Marla!Lovett) there's a bit of resonance with the majority of the victims the Ripper chose, which were middle-aged, slightly overweight women down on their luck.
  • Also, somewhere between the events of Sweeney Todd and Toby's killings as Jack the Ripper, Toby will change his name to Sebastian for unknown reasons (maybe as a result of his traumatization).

The stage revival (which was staged as Toby's story in the asylum) was directed by the Marquis de Sade.
The revival had the play being told by Toby while in an asylum, with the other characters being performed by inmates. As we know from the play Marat/Sade, this is the sort of thing the Marquis did when he was put away, directing the other patients in various plays. In addition to directing, in this case he also made many changes to the script - the original story was probably a wholesome romance where a man lost at sea must win back his family who have presumed him dead for many years, with the help of the kindly baker woman who lived next door.

Tim Burton's version is a dark and twisted sequel to Sleepy Hollow
After returning from Australia and beliving Katrina dead, his daughter captured, and his manservant (Masbeth/Play!Toby or Movie!Anthony) missing, Ichabod changes his name and takes on the Headless Horseman's persona (+head, -horse). Katrina and Masbeth suffered from traumatic amnesia in his absence.

The Toby from the concert performance (played by Neil Patrick Harris) is an alternate universe version of Doctor Horrible.
Not only do they look the same, but both shared a similar sweet but neurotic personality, both were hopeless romantics, and both became crazed and murderous after the woman they love was killed by her boyfriend.

Benjamin Barker's birth name was Todd Sweeney.
He changed it when he went to London to make his fortune and find the girl of his dreams. After his severe disillusionment, losing both, he changed his name back to a reversal of the name that best represented his former youthful naivete.
  • Actually, is it ever clarified anywhere why he'd pick that as a particular pseudonym?
    • I've only seen it explained in fanfic. Theories include (a) his mother's maiden name was Sweeney or Todd, (b) Lucy's maiden name was Sweeney or Todd, (c) he had childhood friends with those names, (d) he had fellow prisoners with those names, and (e) he picked Todd because Tod is German for death and he wanted to be threatening and stuff. I've also heard that the name Sweeney could reflect anti-Irish sentiment on the part of the penny dreadful authors/urban myth spreaders. Personally, I think he used the names of his first pet (Sweeney the goldfish) and the first street where he lived (Todd Lane).
    • B-but "Tod" isn't pronounced that way! (Not like a quasi-Victorian English native could tell.) I'd buy the anti-Irish sentiment theory, and/or the fellow prisoners one. (This troper's roleplaying partner took the cellmates theory and ran with it... by having at least one of them be a crazy prison rapist. Fun tiems.)
    • I've heard the anti-Irish theory also with an interesting twist. I have no idea where I heard this, but the argument is Sweeney is just as stereotypically Irish name as Sawney is to Scots. Thus, it alludes to Sawney Bean, the subject of another urban legend who supposedly ran a family of cannibals.
    • Sawney Bean is mentioned in the special features in the DVD of Tim Burton's version, and it seemed quite obvious that there was a connection there by way of names. Derived from it's Irish spelling, "Suibne" was also an epithet meaning "pleasant", so adding that to the German "Tod"...(This troper was the roleplay partner with the crazy rapist cellmate theory) Though I'm fond of the goldfish idea. Pleasant deadly goldfish.
    • So Sweeney Todd is Ben Baker's "Pornstar Name"?
    • Damn straight it is. And now, fetch the brain bleach.
    • "Sweeney" was Victorian slang for "Irish barber." It was a slur at first, but they (as a group) then reclaimed it, so by the time Benjamin Barker came back, it simply meant "barber." So, really, he only chose the name Todd.
    • Most likely whoever Benjamin Barker was based on in reality never chose the name Sweeney Todd, rather it was a nickname the people who spread the horror story gave him.

There will be a Hollywood sequel to the film that will be a huge source of discontinuity
It will be called: "Sweeney Todd 2: Turpin's Revenge". Turpin somehow survived. Anthony and Joanna will hit a rocky patch in their relationship when Anthony is tempted by the hot new female lead, a perky Action Girl in skimpy clothing. The plot will focus on two villains: Turpin and Toby, who is now a murderer as bad as Todd used to be. Todd will have been returned to life as a dark antihero, and his only chance to escape an eternity in hell is to defeat Turpin once and for all. The climax will be an epic razor-blade duel between Todd and Turpin on top of Big Ben (which, anachronistically, will be in London), interspersed with a tense chase scene as Anthony, Joanna and the new female lead try to apprehend Toby, who is fleeing through the sewers after having killed Anthony's long-lost twin brother. At the end, Todd kills Turpin and is allowed entry to heaven, Anthony learns that Joanna is his one true love, and the new action girl gets Toby to change his evil ways. At the end of the film, they team up, leaving it open for a third film or an animated series in which They Fight Crime.
  • I threw up in my mouth a little.
  • I laughed. Heartily.
  • If that happens, I'll die more than a little bit inside.

Movieverse Johanna becomes a full-time Sweet Polly Oliver.
Whether Anthony goes back to sea and she follows, or the two merely hide from the Lawr under this guise is debatable. At least the 2001 concert cast has her dressed as a sailor singing that she'll go to sea with him.

Johanna's on a direct trajectory to craziness herself.
  • There's the likelihood of some mental illness from her father's side of the family, fifteen years being taken care of by a corrupt judge with an unwholesome interest in her innocence, a spate in that most comforting of places, the nineteenth century madhouse, an attempt on her life, and the discovery of a serial killer. Who was her dad, who killed her mom, who herself was a mentally ill beggar and prostitute for those fifteen years. And of course, the discovery of a Torture Cellar filled with bits of people in meat grinders. Just the fact that she goes off with Anthony doesn't insure their happy ending lasts. Given just how little time she spent with him, she probably would have jumped on any chance to get out of the Judge's care.

Toby was developing an Oedipal Complex.
This one pretty much goes without explaining.

Sweeney Todd is not Benjamen Barker.
The two men met on the ship to Australia and were dumped off in the wilderness together as prisoners often were. Once there, Barker caught some sort of deadly disease and passed away after telling Todd about his family and his razors and his need for revenge. Todd, being an insane murderer anyway, decides that he could avenge Barker's family for him, and then goes to London to do just that.
  • Also, they look just enough alike that the already crazy Mrs. Lovett can immediately draw the conclusion that he's Barker.
    • Pirelli recognized the razors, and Todd practically forced Turpin to realize that he was Barker.
    • The razors were kept and given to him by Mrs. Lovett, though, so that's already covered by the idea that Mrs. Lovett mistook him for Barker. And Turpin doesn't recognize him directly — only through his references to Lucy and Johanna.
    • True or not, it adds a whole new dimension to the story.

The story isn't true, being told by an Unreliable Narrator
In the revival, the play is being show as the story Toby tells when confined in an asylum after the events of the play. In this case, it's possible that Toby killed the customers himself, and invented Todd as an alternate personality he now can't tell the difference between. Alternately, Todd existed and killed people, but was just a motiveless sociopath; Toby invented a tragic backstory for him because he couldn't stand the idea of so many people (including the woman he loved) being killed for no reason.

Movie version: Bellatrix Lestrange and Peter Pettigrew have stolen a time turner in order to have some fun and cause mischief in the nineteenth century.
  • Bellatrix shares her fashion sense with Mrs. Lovett, as well as having a crush on a ruthless serial killer. Also you can't deny that baking pies out of human meat would not be exactly that far out of character for our lovely friend Bella...
  • Meanwhile, Wormtail enjoys himself by being the right hand of an evil and powerful man.
  • Judge Turpin on the other hand, just happens to look like Severus Snape by mere coincidence.
  • Not to mention that young Gellert Grindelwald seduces and then runs off with Snape's ancestor's ward and intended wife.

Alternative to above: They're actually related to the characters in the movie
They're all the grandchildren of identical twins. Also, Johanna had a son named Willy, who moved away, built a candy factory, and changed his last name to a silly, alliterative word. He then had a son who took the name and factory in a new (trippier) direction and looked like Benjamen Barker.

Mrs. Lovett had an illegitimate child with someone and eventually her great great so many great granddaughter would be Marla Singer

The Mrs. Lovett seen in the film was actually a fangirl of Sweeney's.

She found her way into the movie somehow, probably by killing the REAL Mrs. Lovett-who would've immediately turned Todd back over to the judge.

The Reason Lucy was at the Dock...
For the rest of the play, the Beggar Woman haunts Fleet Street and the street in front of Judge Turpin's house - understandable, as those are sights of great emotional importance to her. One is her old home, the other is the sight of her worst trauma. But why is she at the Dock? Why just that one day? She told herself - or Mrs. Lovett told her, to soothe her - that her husband wasn't deported for life, but just for fifteen years. Even in her madness, she clung to that idea. So when fifteen years had passed, she started waiting at the docks for him to return. When she saw Todd, she recognized him vaguely, and followed him "home."
  • Or she was there cause docks are a good place for prostitutes to find work. She did follow Sweeney home after she recognized him, but really, she was just looking at the prisoner ship because she figured most of them hadn't seen all too many women in Botany Bay.

Pirelli threw the challenge Todd presented to him.
As soon as he recognized Todd's/Barker's blades he knew in order to get Todd into a false sense of security by dismissing him as a minor threat. If he had actually tried he could have beaten Todd, having watched his technique for quite some time so he had learnt the tricks of the trade. Once he had given Todd the five pounds that was his bet he knew he would be getting it back as soon as he was able to extort Todd for half of his income for the rest of his life.

Toby is the son of Judge Turpin and Lucy.
We see in the movie that Lucy was drugged and raped by Judge Turpin at a masquerade ball. What if, Lucy became pregnant following the rape. She gave birth to Toby and then drank the poison, going insane. Johanna is adopted by Turpin, and Toby falls through the cracks, and with no one to take care of him, ends up in an orphanage. After several years, he is hired as Pirelli's assistant.
  • Well that's just silly, because Mrs. Lovett would have noticed her get pregnant, and Mrs. Lovett would have put that in the story she told Sweeney wait... unless...

Mrs. Lovett poisoned Lucy herself.
To get Sweeney Todd. She always had a feeling he'd come back. And She HAD to get rid of the bystander, she just TOLD Todd that so she'd still have favor in his eyes.
  • In the light of the guess immediately above, this means that Mrs. Lovett was envious of everything Lucy had that she didn't, family- and probably lifestyle-wise, not just Benjamin.

Benjamin Barker wasn't just a barber...
(going with the Burton film version of both Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street & Charlie and the Chocolate Factory]]...on the side, he was a candy-maker. He figured that he could make extra money pulling the teeth of those who indulged in too much of his chocolate. Plus, he worked to make his relationship with Toby to mirror that of his relationship with Charlie.

Benjamin Barker/Sweeney Todd was an Assassin.
His cover was that of a barber, and he tended to use the razors he had for his cover as weapons during his assassination missions. He wasn't transported to Australia on a trumped up charge, but rather because of a series of high profile assassinations, or at least attempts. His wits were snapped when he was in Australia, and when he came back was stark raving mad. So, what happens when an Assassin goes mad? Bloodbath.

Mrs. Lovett is the reason Lucy wound up in Bedlam.
Think about it: in "Poor Thing" she describes Lucy as being a "Silly little nit/had her chance/with the world on a string." So we know she's jealous of Lucy, coveted Benjamin, and pretty much thinks that Lucy should have just done the dirty with the Judge to appease him ("But did she come down from her tower?/Sat up there and sulked by the hour"). So she also thinks that Lucy thought herself too good for such a thing.

In "Final Scene" Lucy tells Todd to beware of Mrs. Lovett, "She with no pity in her heart." She's constantly calling Mrs. Lovett evil. And Mrs. Lovett says that Lucy "Should've been in a hospital/ Wound up in Bedlam instead!" If Mrs. Lovett was taking care of Lucy (or at least Johanna, as she knows that all Lucy's done is lie in bed for weeks) then who else could have sent Lucy to Bedlam?

  • Judge Turpin arrives on the scene hopeful Lucy has finally come to her senses. Instead he discovers she is now raving mad and no longer of use to him. He orders Beadle Bamford to take Lucy to Bedlam and repossess all of the Barkers belongings. However, recognizing a resemblance between the young Joanna and her mother he decides to adopt her as a ward until she comes of age...

Mrs Lovett stands idly by and protects only Benjamin's razors hopeful that with the wife and child out of the way if he ever returns she can have him for herself.

Mrs. Lovett will have a descendent who becomes a psycologist and falls in love with a madman...
...only instead of a Mr. T, she'll fall for a Mistah J.

The razors are Artifacts Of Doom.
  • The razors either cause the people around them to become evil, attract trouble, or has a thirst for blood. Possibly all three. First, the razors corrupt Daniel Higgins, causing him to become a child-beating con man. Without any power to get Benjamin to commit evil acts, it brings Lucy to the Judge's attention. After being stuffed into hiding, it corrupts Mrs. Lovett until she becomes a manipulative, lovesick woman. When Barker returns, its power grows with each life it cuts down. However, when Sweeney kills the Judge, he declares that the razor can finally rest, said razor panics. It gets Sweeney to kill Mrs. Lovett before using already-corrupted Toby to kill Sweeney, possibly repeating the process later on.

The entire story comes from the imagination of Johanna and Toby
Johanna and Toby Barker were as close as brothers and sisters could be. Their father was a barber and their mother was a seamstress for charity. They lived in enough wealth to be comfortable in the middle class. Mrs. Lovett (a widow) was the name of their nanny, who would subtly flirt with their father and his cousin, a butcher named Sweeney Todd. Anthony was Johanna's charming fiance who swore to be her champion and Turpin was a tutor (and retired Judge) who would molest her during her lessons. Turpin raped Mrs. Barker, and used his authority and good reputation to say, not only that she seduced him, but that they were having an affair. Todd remarked on Mrs. Barker's "infidelity" while he and Mr. Barker were drunk. Barker attacked Todd and Todd stabbed Barker with his own razor out of self-defense. The Barker children saw the body. Mrs. Barker went mad with grief and, without her husband and anyone willing to hire her as a seamstress, she resorted to prostitution. Johanna and Toby decided to run away from home and try to find their fortune. Turpin ended up finding them and put them both in the asylum to shut Johanna up. Mr. Fogg favored Johanna because her hair was a shade much in demand and it grew back quickly. He allowed her and her brother Toby to have tea and read fairy tales in his office. As for all the other minor details: Lucy was Johanna's doll with a torn dress and loose, messy hair; Benjamin was the name of their dog with kind eyes; Mr. Todd and the widow Lovett married, had a good meat pie business, and forgot about the Barker children; and Mr. Fogg had a beautiful ship-in-a-bottle knickknack that he bought from a shop called "The Bountiful Emporium" on a trip to Plymouth.

The whole story is an Imagine Spot of Mme. Thénardier.
Not only does she look exactly like Mrs. Lovett, she also shares traits and dressing choices with her. In the book, Mme. Thénardier is (only very slightly) less evil than her husband. After Éponine and Gavroche died, she went on with her life, but slowly her guilt feeling started to sink in, untill she had a Heel-Face Turn in the way of a dream.

  • In her dream, she still has her business, which she lost some time before 1832. Desperate to keep it, she doesn't hesitate to use human meat (since she was already using kidney of a horse and liver of a cat, it's the next logical step).
  • Her husband, whom she hates, is an over-the-top, show-off, Villain In Name Only Italian barber who is killed early, instead of the over-the-top, Belgian innkeeper who gets away without any consequences after all he's done. Pirelli's abusive treatment of Toby reflects the treatment he gave to their children and Cosette. Signor Pirelli carelessly sharps the knife on Toby's hand when he's trying to be impressive, the same way M. Thénardier makes Anzelma cut herself by punching a window to inspire pity. The way he treats Toby in general represents the abusive treatment both gave to Cosette, of which she feels guilty, which is why she bonds with Toby. Furthermore, Toby himself represents Gavroche. Mme. Thénardier blames herself for his death. Toby is a Heartwarming Orphan who loves Mme. Thénardier, and she loves him back. When he realizes Sweeney is evil, she has to lock him in the basement where Sweeney will kill him. In Les Misérables, it was because of Parental Abandonment that Gavroche had become the way he was, so eager to fight in a barricade he got himself killed. In this alternative version, Gavroche lives because Mrs. Lovett raised him, even if her methods were questionable.
  • Anthony is Marius, being a Wide-Eyed Idealist Stalker with a Crush. Johanna could be either Cosette, who Mme. Thénardier perhaps actually loved deep down, unaware of it, or Éponine, who she wants to be alive and happy.
  • Judge Turpin is Valjean, who is the Big Bad of her story. Lucy is Fantine.
  • In this AU, she's with a man who she actually loves, but he gives her Laser-Guided Karma for the harm she caused. This is the end of the dream and the trigger of her Heel-Face Turn (which happens offscreen).
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alternative title(s): Sweeney Todd
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