In my honor’s seminar on children’s literature, I will be giving a speech this week on what critics, reviewers, and scholars are saying about Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland. As I did my research preparing for my speech, I chose to focus more on what scholars had to say about the development as Alice, the main character, and how she’s been changed by society over time and who she is in Burton’s movie is a result of that. Here’s what I learned from that research. This is a reflection of what several professors and doctoral candidates had to say about Alice and all I did was interpret it. Here’s a different look at Alice from Burton’s version of Carroll’s classic tale!
A 51% rating by Rotten Tomatoes, a 53% rating by Metacritic, and a 6.5/10 by IMDb. These are the ratings that Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland received when it was released in 2010. After the movie’s release, the new Alice was met with mixed reviews. Some critics believed that the movie was a fresh take and interpretation of Carroll’s story. Others thought that Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland was grotesque, much too dark, and “ordinary” in comparison to Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
I feel like I could go on and on about what the critics and reviewers had to say about Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland but I’m not going to. That stuff is all very interesting, but I found that what several English professors and doctoral candidates had to say about the movie was even more fascinating. There was a general trend I noticed. This trend was that Alice has been so influenced by popular culture over the years, that she is worlds apart from Carroll’s version of Alice.
For one, Alice has been sexualized over time and we see this as Alice struggles to keep her clothes on. When she enters Wonderland, she is only in her petticoat. As she grows and shrinks, her clothes do not conform to her body. She shows more skin and cleavage than would be considered appropriate during the Victorian era. At one point in the movie, the Knave of Hearts even pulls her aside and compliments Alice, or Um, on her “largeness”. The innocent and adorable little Alice of Carroll’s story that we all know and love has been lost to the sexualization of women that we see so often in media today. Another side of this argument, however, applauds Burton on his decision to display Alice as he did. Some scholars and even the screenwriter for the film argue that Alice is more empowering shown as she is. She encourages girls and young women to break the barriers of their own society by breaking the barriers and expectations of girls and women in her own Victorian society. To scholars that believed this idea, Alice’s portrayal put an emphasis on creating and building strong-willed and empowered women.
In addition to this, many scholars noted that Alice seems to have lost her sense of curiosity and interest in Wonderland which completely contradicts with Carroll’s message of encouraging curiosity and imagination in young girls. Alice flees to Wonderland to escape from an unwanted engagement and throughout her journey, her one goal is to get home. In Carroll’s version, Alice follows after the White Rabbit because of her curious nature. Alice wants to engage with the animals and learn about the nonsensical world she’s stumbled upon. In Burton’s Wonderland, she’s in a constant state of fear, uncertainty, and rejection toward Wonderland and curiosity is viewed as a negative thing. As Alice ventures through Wonderland, she constantly reminds herself that she’s in a dream but has no control over anything. Like in the instance with the Vorpal Sword, In the end, you might remember that “The Vorpal Sword knows what it wants, you just have to hold on to it.” According to one of the doctoral candidate’s papers I read over, Alice had no control over killing the Jabberwocky. It was ultimately up to the sword to finish off the monster and this was an interesting thought because it demonstrates that Alice has morphed into a woman who has no control over her choices which holds true for some women in society today too.
So in conclusion, the Alice of Burton’s movie is not the Alice of Carroll’s book. Burton’s Alice is not the curious, lovable, and innocent little girl she once was. Alice has grown into a completely different person as a result of society’s expectations and beliefs of women over a long period of time. Honestly, if the Caterpillar was to ask Alice who she was today, there’s a good chance she would have no idea how to answer.
Aguilo-Perez, Emily R. “Appearing Otherwise: Alice Is Now The Woman in Wonderland.” The Looking Glass : New Perspectives on Children’s Literature, 2015, lib.latrobe.edu.au/ojs/index.php/tlg/article/view/595/556.
Rother, Larry. “Drinking Blood: New Wonders of Alice’s World.” New York Times 26 Feb. 2010. Web. 11 Sept. 2018.
Susina, Jan. “Marvels & Tales.” Marvels & Tales, vol. 25, no. 1, 2011, pp. 181–183. JSTOR, JSTOR, jstor.org/stable/41388993.