Follow TV Tropes


Headscratchers / Corpse Bride

Go To

  • So are the dead people ghosts or just animated (no pun intended) corpses? If it is the latter, does that mean nothing actually dies (since Emily turns into butterflies when her "spirit" is released, it seems her soul is still connected to her body; and they actually are senitent)? If they are just ghosts, why are children stuck in the Underworld, did they have anything that would prevent them from moving on?
    • On second thought, the dead "children" are probably just freaky midgets...
    • They probably are not ghosts as ghosts would not be decomposing. It is kind of haunting that so many people apparently have issues and cannot rest in peace. They look fairly happy, though.
  • Just before the Remains of the Day musical number, Victor asks "Who are you? Where am I?". Bonejangles answer with the story of Emily, which Victor didn't ask about, without even so much as, you know, basically telling him he's in the Underworld.
    • Bonejangles may have been answering him in a roundabout way: Victor is here because of Emily, so Bonejangles tells Victor her story and uses it as an excuse to sing a jive tune while he's at it. By telling him the story of Emily's murder, the obvious follow-up to that is that this must be where dead people go, especially since everyone else around them is also clearly dead. Therefore, he's letting Victor put two and two together instead of answering him outright, probably because he and the rest of the lively undead folk are delighted with the novelty of the timid and very much alive Victor and they can't resist messing with him.
  • Alright, we can admit that even skeletons with no more vocal chords can still talk, those with no eyes can still see, and so on. Alright, we can. But then what's the deal with Bonejangles stating in his song that, "of course", he's just addressing those of the deads who"'ve still got an ear" ? They can sing even in skeleton form, but for some reason they need medically functional ears ? How does that work ?
    • He probably wasn't being serious. He probably needed something to rhyme, and also wanted to emphasize how everybody has decayed over the years. He himself has no ears, but can hear just fine.
  • What the hell happens to Emily in the end? Did she go to heaven? But nothing in the movie suggests that there IS a heaven in the described world - it seems like everyone just go to the Underworld and continue to live (to undie?) there forever. I mean, you would expect cute little children to go to heaven, if there was one...
    • What? If that really was the only place people go, they'd be crowded a thousand years ago, man! There's obviously a heaven, and souls just stay there in the underworld as long as they have any unfinished business. And that's why she... vanished in the air.
      • You can`t tell if it is crowded or not, we don`t know the size of the underworld. Also, what unfinished business could Scraps have?
      • Waiting for someone perhaps?
      • No idea, but we'd probably see more neanderthals and old-timey stuff if that was the only underworld... the oldest ghosts there seem to be those two generals. And... guys, we're talking millions, or at least thousands of years of death here, unless the underworld is infnite (which it doesn't seem to be), the place seems a bit too underpopulated.
      • Underworld could very well be infinite to support a potentially infinite number of dead. Neanderthals and old-timers would probably prefer to hang out with people from their own time, and that is why you don`t see them in the movie.
      • Or the Skeletons in Die Die We All Pass Away are precisely the older. All that's left of them is unidentifiable skeletons, because the clothes that could identify them have all decomposed long ago.
      • I assumed that the beings in the Underworld were waiting around for someone else to join them in death before moving on to the next world. It makes sense if you think about some of the inhabitants of the Underworld. The skeleton children may be waiting for their parents or their friends, Victor's dog was likely waiting for him, and Emily was waiting for Lord Barkis.
    • Advertisement:
    • She gets reincarnated. As V&V's KID!
    • Or she moves to Halloween Land
    • Or she was, in fact, just a bunch of insects in a giant human suit.
    • I interpreted it as something akin to reaching nirvana myself.
    • Butterflies are supposed to be a symbol of resurrection. She gets to start over with a new life and a clean slate.
    • According to the Q&A page on IMDB, the filmmakers were trying to imply that she moved on to Heaven; they chose a generic symbol of the human soul (the butterfly) to avoid tying it to any one religion.
  • In a related theme, what happens to Barkis? It doesn't seem you can actually harm the dead. But I guess living in the Underworld, where everyone shuns you, is still a Fate Worse than Death...
    • Mrs. Plum used him in a stew? Imagine being ripped apart and used for food while still conscious...
    • They could spend an eternity beating the heck out of him.
  • A minor thing, but it has been bugging me — where does Emily's bouquet go in the church when she's not holding it? She walks up to Victor in the church holding it, then it vanishes while she's saying her vows and during the Barkis/Victor fight, then it reappears once she's walking away from the reunited Victor and Victoria. But we never actually see her set it down or drop it.
  • And, of course, the kicker: Victor's parents get put on a carriage randomly in the middle of the movie and and are never seen again, dead or alive.
  • Are the dead essentially ghosts? Just waiting around until passing on to another realm? Also, what happens when that underground city fills to the brim with dead people? What happens then?
    • My guess is that the underworld cannot fill up, because it exists outside of time and space. It is most likely infinite.
    • That city isn't the whole underworld—it's the underworld for the people who died and were buried in that specific town! Remember, everyone who came "upstairs" for the wedding was recognized by their family and friends, and when Victor tries to get Emily to take him home to "meet his parents," she asks him "Where are they buried?"
    • They probably are not ghosts, but corpses. Why would the ghost form be rotting and decomposing?
  • Exactly how "dead" do you have to be to go to the underworld. When that guy driving the carriage died, he headed there immediately. But Victor's dog, Scraps, is just a bunch of bones. Did they wait until he decayed into a pile of bones for him to get there?
    • No, I think you arrive at least roughly about the time you die. You just happen to continue to rot while you're down there. Remember, the Bride's got a maggot living inside her. Scraps has probably been down there for a few years.
    • Some of the characters' appearances imply how they died. For example, the "dwarf" has a sword through his chest. Maybe Scraps had a funeral pyre dedicated to him.
  • Can the dead be "killed", as in no longer moving or thinking? Do you think what the dead might do to the recently deceased Barkis would kill him?
  • If the dead are not allowed to go onto the surface of the living, why was the Bride's hand seen sticking out of the ground. She must have been laying there and just an arm sticking out would count.
    • I imagine this has something to do with her vow to wait for her true love to come set her free. You can't exactly do that if you're buried completely in the ground.
      • I always took her hand sticking out as being the remains of her body after Barkis killed her and stole her family's jewelry, and Victor 'proposing' to her brought her soul back to her body so she could track him down and 'kill' him...
  • Would the dead continue to age like that old skeleton guy in the library, or stay the way they are?
    • I just assumed Elder Gutknecht was very old when he died, then rotted away to a skeleton.
    • Elder Gutknecht seemed to be from a previous generation of dead humans, perhaps a Homo Habilus? He is, rather literally, the Elder of Underworld, as he's been around longer than everyone else when they were alive...?
  • Could just any living thing end up in the world of the dead, like Scraps? What about plants, insects, fungi, bacteria, algae?
    • There were trees in the underworld, wasn't there? There has to be a lake somewhere with algae. Just because you don't see it, it doesn't mean it's nonexistent.
  • Speaking of animals, why can Maggot and Black Widow talk, and the other animals can't? Emily seems able to interpret Scraps's barks, but that's not the same as speaking plain English like Maggot and BW.
    • It gets weirder when you compare Corpse Bride with its spirital ancestor, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Nightmare is technically Disney (a cousin of the animated canon, if you will), so you would expect it to having talking animals (image what Zero would sound like), but it doesn't. Perhaps it's so Emily can have some friends to talk to? Then why not other corpses?
    • I figured that Scraps was a dead dog while Maggot and BW were (somehow) natural denizens of the underworld — that is, beings that didn't have to die to get there. Scraps couldn't speak English (or any other human language) in life, so it carried into death, whereas Maggot and BW had always existed as supernatural English-speaking creatures.
  • Why didn't Emily ever try her luck with another dead person? They can't ALL be taken, why wait for a living dude? This works in the original story, as the Corpse Bride is the only dead person, but not when there's other dead people! What about Bonejangles, he seems fun to hang out with. Actually, that's another thing; why couldn't Tim develop Bonejangles' character a bit more and had a Pair the Spares moment? Yeah, it's a cop-out, but it has potential.
    • Poor Emily must be the type to miss the obvious "wait for a dead single guy" and insist on getting married to a living one. As for Bonejangles — well, all I can say there is that Tim obviously had no idea how popular the guy would get. Must be Danny Elfman and his magic voice.
    • It also occurs to me that her vow might have trapped her into marrying a living man, depending on how she actually worded it (i.e., did she just say "wait for [my] true love to come set [me] free," as in Remains of the Day, or did she state that she'd wait for someone aboveground to propose?)
  • Why does everyone in the underworld act like Victor is a giant jerk for not wanting to be married to Emily and for trying to get back to Victoria? I'm aware that, in universe, it can be justified by that just being the way the dead think, but it's still completely absurd and seems only there to make everyone guilt Victor into accepting Emily. He married her accidentally and already had a fiancée. Emily's behavior (while understandable given her past) is irrational. It's not even entirely because she's dead - if a similar situation happened with a living girl it would be obvious her behavior was irrational.
    • They didn't seem that bad to me. However, the main reason is probably solidarity. Emily is very well-liked, and everybody who hurts her is looked down upon.
    • This is actually obvious; to them, Victor had married Emily, plain and simple. Him going to Victoria, who to them was simply an "other", was basically akin to him cheating on Emily. Remember, Marriages back then really couldn't be considered an "Accident", and Divorce was also still a huge Social Faux-pas, possibly even to the dead. Also remember that a Woman's job at this time, even for someone as talented and intelligent as Emily, was to get married and raise a family, which would lead to someone such as Emily thinking so much about it (Especially since she was murdered over it). So the undead would vilify the Man in this case because he had been the unfaithful one to his wife (Victor to Emily), even if the Woman (Emily) wasn't sane about the subject.
      • You’re completely minimizing the issue. All Victor did was place a ring on what he thought to be a twig while practicing his vows — I’m pretty sure at no point in history would that be upheld as the grounds for a legal binding marriage. It’s completely ridiculous to take “Marriage can’t be accidental” and extrapolate that to something like this.
      • It's true that Victor's accidental proposal couldn't possibly be mistaken for a real marriage by any rational person, but Emily is the only one who was there when he practiced his vows. Likely all anyone else in the land of the dead knows is what Emily told them, that Victor said his vows to her "perfectly" and gave her a ring, meaning Bang! they're married. They're all already dead and they aren't getting any younger, who cares if the marriage has witnesses or a pastor or whatever, as long as two people love each other? So that's how they view Victor and Emily's relationship, and that's why they feel Victor is betraying Emily by going to Victoria. Victor iirc never exactly explains what happened, just that it was "a mistake".
  • Does it bother anybody else that Victoria doesn't get a chance to go after Victor and Emily? You have to think about it from the perspective of it being a film - in-story, it makes sense, but the story wasn't born into existence, it was written, and it could have been written differently. It feels like the story goes out of its way to push Emily and Victor together, and suppresses Victoria in order to do so.
    • Less tension and eventual confusion when the dead show up for Victor and Emily's wedding. If there were a way for Victoria to go after Victor, it would be common(ish) knowledge.
    • What is meant when you say "go after them", anyway? Emily took Victor to the Underworld, and even if Victoria knew that at first, she still probably wouldn't know of a way to get there. She also does try to sneak out and get help, if you remember, but the guy from the church just brought her right back to her parents.
    • Victoria would never have had a chance- Pastor Galswells' response was quite realistic for the time- any woman spouting such claims would be considered mad and sent home for detainment.
  • Why on earth is Barkis attending Victor and Victoria's wedding?! He seems to be there just so that he can swoop in and take Victoria when Victor disappears with Emily, but he doesn't make any attempt on Victor's life or try to get him out of the way. My brother and I tried to restructure the film with this in mind and we thought it'd be a great idea to have Barkis be the one to suggest Victor practice in the woods - it opens the plot hole of, how could he know Emily was waiting for him, but he makes him a more effective villain and at least explains what he's doing there, and those kinds of plot holes are all over the place in Burton's films.
    • 1) He could have waiting for Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace moment to deliver a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    • 2) Marrying Victoria was never his original goal, it was coincidence that he was there to take Victor's place. As one of the "upper crust" it was only polite/sociable (and smart) for him to attend a wedding of his peers/social group and use that opportunity to scout out potential bride (WITH a fortune, he did not know Victoria's family was broke.).
    • 3) Emily may not have been factored at all. Pure dumb luck/fate seems to have led Victor to her. After all, if Barkis wanted Victor dead, he could watched, waited, and slit Victor's throat/backstab the second they were out of sight.
  • The ending's great and all, but....Victor and Victoria can't get married. Last anybody knew, Victoria got married to Lord Barkis. Who is dead, but how is anybody supposed to know, since his corpse was carried off? I'm sure it could be worked up, but it bugs me they couldn't clear that up better before the end to at least reassure us that the couple really could live happily ever after.
    • I doubt anyone will be able to pull up legal documents enforcing that fact. In any case, it would be considered pretty trivial since the dead just got up and walked through town. It'd be all too easy to get people to believe that Barkis died before anything could be resolved. As to why they didn't show that, it would've broken the pace.
    • There were living people in attendance, you know. I'm sure they'd be willing to back up that Barkis had died right before their eyes.
    • Both of the above points are true and would probably take care of the matter easily. However, if for some reason that isn't enough, there is a fallback: Victoria can simply have the marriage annulled. The dead rose up in the middle of the wedding dinner right after the ceremony and Barkis "vanished" around the same time, so it would be easy for her to petition for an annulment on the grounds of non-consummation. Then, from a legal standpoint, her marriage to Barkis never happened and she would be free to marry Victor.
  • What haunts the other dead people we got to see? What keeps them stuck in the town and prevents them from becoming butterflies? Why cannot they go to heaven? A lot of people seem to have a lot of issues and unfinished businesses. And if they are troubled, why do they seem to be fairly happy?
    • Emily was waiting to finally get married, everyone else could have something just as mundane they're waiting for. They could be waiting for parents, spouses, grandchildren, mastering their craft, the chance to punish someone who wronged them, anything.
    • Maybe they aren't stuck, they actually like it there! Emily clearly had unfinished business, so naturally she wouldn't want to be in Dead Town. Once her unfinished business is cleared up, she gets to go to Heaven or, my favorite theory, be reincarnated. Bonejangles and the rest, however, like it just fine in Dead Town, so they don't have to go anywhere. That's why there are kids in the town, and why everyone seems to be pretty happy!
    • They worked themselves into the grave in the terrible working conditions of the Victorian Era. Their unfinished business is taking time to relax and enjoy being alive, or post-alive in this case!
  • Rather minor headscratcher, but during the scene in the beginning where Victor messes up the wedding rehearsal, he accidentally sets Mrs. Everglot's dress on fire, resulting in everyone scrambling to put it out until Barkis finally does so... by pouring wine on it. Wouldn't that make the fire worse?
    • They were dirt poor, so maybe they were watering down the wine?
    • It wouldn't have to be watered down. Even gasoline will drown a small flame, not fuel it, if poured on all at once like that.
    • True, what is inflammable in the cases of gasoline and alcohol is not the liquid, is the gas they produce.
  • How is the Underworld related to the Living World? Emily's body is clearly where Barkis left it, half-buried under the oak tree in the graveyard, but the various corpses seem familiar with her and her tragic backstory. When Victor suggests she meet his parents, she asks where they're buried, but nobody in the Underworld lives in graves, and when the dead go to the land of the living for the wedding they materialize from the shadows. Mayhew's body was left in the middle of the road, but he pops up seconds later in the Underworld. It's all rather confusing.
    • It's possible that when Emily asks "Where are they buried?" it's just a more applicable means of saying "Where do they live?" since, as you've made note of, where people like Emily and Mayhew are buried (or in Mayhew's case, just where he died) determines where they end up in the Underworld. When she asked Victor that, she was only wondering what part of the land of the dead his parents had ended up in.
  • When Emily presents her wedding gift to Victor, she pulls the gift box seemingly out of nowhere. Where did that box come from? Assuming it was just sitting there next to the bench, why was it just sitting there, and how did Emily know that her wedding gift would be there? Admittedly, one could say that she put the gift box there and intentionally lead Victor to run to the same location, but that raises some very disturbing implications for Emily's character.
    • Even if she did lead him there, that still doesn't really lead to any such implications - this is the girl who was murdered on her wedding night by someone she thought was her true love, and spent many long years beneath the same tree she died under waiting her new love to come and free her. Plus, she seems to legitimately believe that Victor is in love with her, or at the very least is oblivious to the fact that he isn't at first, and clearly generally loves him, in return. Thus, there isn't anything truly creepy about her leading him to that spot intentionally when you take what is known about her into account.
  • During the song explaining her backstory, it was mentioned that after Barkis murdered her, Emily vowed to wait by that tree for her true love to come and set her free. If this was the case, and she spent all of her time beneath that very tree, then how did so many members of the underworld come to learn her story?
    • When she was murdered, she had not made the vow yet. So she naturally wakes up in the Underworld, make the vow, and ask the old skeleton with that unpronouçable name to go back on Earth to fulfill the vow. A corpse willingly coming back to earth isn't a common thing, and must have been a thrilling and interesting event to the other dead. During all the time in between, they remember that poor Emily was somewhere up there… Also, all the dead seen in the movie are the people dead in this town, so you may assume that at least some people knew her when they were alive (some may have been her grandparent, by all likelihood).
  • The fact that the resting spot of Emily's corpse was a relatively short walk away from the village where Victor lived indicates that she probably lived somewhere nearby in life, and Barkis still being alive and at a fit age for marriage implies that Emily's murder couldn't have taken place that long before the film, correct? So shouldn't Barkis still be something of a wanted man when he shows up to attend Victor and Victoria's wedding? If not for running off with their daughter, wouldn't Emily's parents have at least put out word of how he'd stolen all of their family's treasures?
    • Emily tried to elope, remember? After her father specifically said she couldn't marry Lord Barkis, the two of them just disappearing at the same time with the family valuables makes sense; they probably thought the "lovers" ran away and needed money to start a new life. The family probably disowned Emily for running off with a man they didn't approve of, and trying to arrest the man who ran off with their daughter would mean acknowledging that they couldn't control their own child. It's a bit of a pride thing.
    • Still, that begs the question why, when Barkis turns up in town for Victor and Victoria's wedding, no one asks why Emily isn't with him. And even if her old friends and family just assumed that he had abandoned or divorced her, wouldn't Barkis' reputation be in the toilet considering the time period's attitudes towards divorce and seducing young women?
    • Barkis might have used a different name - or for that matter, does so with Victoria's parents, and possibly wears disguises. Also, it appears as quite a bit of time has passed since then, given Emily's young appearance and the obvious age difference between him and Victoria. Her parents may well have passed on.

  • What was Lord Barkis's plan when he showed up to the rehearsal? He didn't try to do much to psych out Victor or even charm the Everglots, so what was he trying to do? What would he have done if Victor had came back from the woods/never disappeared in the first place?
    • I was wondering this too. It'd be different if we saw him suggest for Victor to go in the woods or saw him follow Victor there to try to kill him or something but we don't. I can see them not wanting to spoil him as the villain but it's still pretty obvious he's gonna be the villain from the start. Plus again, we don't see him charming the Everglots while Victor's gone he just kinda shows up and leaves randomly.
    • I think Barkis is not actually a lord at all, and was at the rehearsal solely to pass himself off as one. The story makes note that Victoria's parents don't recognize him, implying that this is suspicious. And he is a con artist, so it makes sense he would be faking it.

  • When Victor runs from The Ball & Socket and Emily goes looking for him, she calls him by his name... even though the two had just met, Accidental Marriage or not, and Victor didn't even have a chance to introduce himself (understandably, considering how fast things were going). She also somehow knew that Scraps was Victor's deceased dog, despite that, again, she and Victor had technically just met.
    • Considering she knew Scraps and could understand him, it's possible they met at some point and he told her about Victor, who serendipitously happened to be the one to propose to her corpse.
    • Also plausible that Victor has some dead relatives running around, especially considering the time. It seems unlikely at his age his grandparents aren't dead, and Emily seems popular enough among the dead that when she finds a husband they might know and recognize him?

  • If the Everglots were broke, then how they paid Hildegarde and the butler for their services? I don't think these two worked for free, though I agree that Hildegarde would have done it as long she could accompany Victoria...
    • It is possible they burned the last of their finances to guarantee Hildegarde and the Butler on their employ for while. The movie itself takes place over a week or so, so we can't really say if this was like the last month they could afford them. This would give added context to their hurry in marrying off Victoria and also to the butler's decision to go Screw This, I'm Outta Here! in the climax. It is also possible, of course, that both are just continuing to serve out of a (peerhaps misplaced0 sense of gratitude and obligation.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: