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Guest Post: Curiouser and Curiouser: The Many Faces of Alice

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Beyonce as Alice (2008)

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as, Lewis Carroll, a modest reverend and mathematician wrote and published the stories he told his real-life muse, Alice Liddell. Since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There we have come to love Wonderland and, as solidified by Disney’s version directed by Tim Burton, no one is too worried about finding their way back through the rabbit hole.

Alice lives among us in our everyday lives. From Disney Parks 2008 celebrity ad campaigns, which features Beyonce as Alice, to the nonsense game of Mad Libs. From incorporating characters into the Batman villan arsenal to paintings by Salvador Dalí. From America’s Best Dance Crew’s the Jabbawokeez to a sculpture of Alice in Central Park. From a mosaic mural in the 50th street station of the New York subway to retailer Forever 21’s “Twisted Wonderland.”

You could read or count the number of re-telling, fan-fiction, “sequels”, books on math, books on quantum physics, films, songs, titles, song titles, anime, musicals and even pornographic musicals inspired by Carroll’s Alice. You could also have the answer to why a raven is like a writing desk, although, even the Mad Hatter couldn’t tackle that riddle.

"Alice: The Way Out," by Liliana Porter in 50th Street Subway Station, New York (1994)

Lewis in Lit

Go Ask Alice, a novel published anonymously, does justice by turning Wonderland on its head when it goes from being a dream world to showing how warped the real world can be. The title of the work comes from the Jefferson Airplane song “White Rabbit”. Go Ask Alice, like the song it’s inspired by takes on the wide belief that Lewis Carroll was making references to drugs when he thought to put mushrooms, cakes, and drinks that make Alice bigger or smaller.

Another real-world wonderland concept can be found in a little-known novel called Black Alice, written by Thomas M. Disch, under the pen name Thom Demijon, and John Saldek. Black Alice is actually a modern White Alice who is kidnapped and thrown into the “wonderland” of Black culture in the 1960s. She learns to adapt and ultimately finds out who instigated her kidnapping.

Cyberpunk genre works allude to Carroll’s story and famous wordplay often, especially in Jeff Noon novels. Cyberpunk came about in the 1980s and thrived until the late 90s as a sub-group of science fiction. It highlights post-modernism, especially the concept of a radical underground counter-culture amidst the ever-increasing technology. Many different stories make the genre, but it’s hard to get away from the image of Laurence Fishburne coaxing Keanu Reeves to “take the red pill and see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Mia Wasikowska in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010)

In Film

Many films borrow the Alice in Wonderland formula such as The Wizard of Oz, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Coraline (also adapted to film by Tim Burton), Labyrinth, The Last Mimsy (title inspired by the Jabberwocky poem), Sprited Away, Malice in Wonderland, and last, but not least Jim Henson’s Muppet Alice in Wonderland.

The number of film adaptations rivals those of books but most are either obscure or old. The 1951 animated Disney version combines scenes and characters from both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. It takes all the right poetic licenses, and keeps closest to the story’s feel of being a dream with no explanations, answers, or morals. Many of the oldest silent versions, the first created in 1903 and the 1915 version, captures the life in Tenniel’s illustrations without being too bookish. Rob and Dave of “What to Watch with your Popcorn” on RandBreviews YouTube channel reviewed many of the films before the 2010 version was released and do a thorough job explaining the comparisons from the first silent versions to the 1999 film starring Tina Majorino, better known as Deb from Napoleon Dynamite.

Burton’s version, stylistically a visual wonderland in itself, does a great job of balancing the differences between the novels and the new interpretations. There are some questionable aspects that let true Alice fans down as far as a not-so-climactic battle scene constantly built up in the earlier parts of the movie and a focus on the Mad Hatter (his make-up doesn’t add anything to the film beyond being hard to look away from) as well as his enigmatic relationship with Alice. The film also tries to bring in a “be true to yourself” lesson that welcomes Burton’s “gothic” outsider demographic, but would have probably made Alice wonder why she would be forced to learn a lesson outside of school.

–Camille Thomas

Camille Thomas is a creative writing major and magazine journalism minor at the University of Central Florida. She loves zines and blogs at Bittersweet.


Written by whitney teal

April 1, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Recognize!

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. Had the pleasure of reading the unabridged Carroll a few weeks back (the edition has different illustrations, though). This was at the heels of watching the Tim Burton movie. What struck me was movie-Alice’s passivity. Carroll’s Alice was just so filled with awe and wonder.


    April 1, 2010 at 3:56 pm

  2. […] more: Curiouser and Curiouser: The Many Faces of Alice April 14th, 2010 | Tags: Alice in Wonderland, whitney | Category: Hedes and […]

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