‘Alice in Wonderland’ and its enduring spell on dreamers

March 09, 2010 | 1:20 p.m.

With “Alice in Wonderland” moving front and center in the public imagination, L.A. Times staff writer Adam Tschorn went down the rabbit hole to discover the secret behind Alice’s enduring popularity. Here’s an excerpt from his Sunday piece in The Times’ Image section.

Alice three

When Lewis Carroll popped Alice down the rabbit hole in 1865, he had no way of knowing that the girl in the pinafore dress — along with the creatures that populate “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and its 1872 sequel “Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There” — would become a permanent fixture on our pop culture landscape.

The phenomenon encompasses more than the 100-plus versions of the book – the most recent of which, published last month, pairs Carroll’s text with illustrations by Camille Rose Garcia and recently hit the Los Angeles Times and New York Times bestseller lists. It’s something beyond the more than two dozen feature film incarnations, ranging from a star-studded 1933 version — in which Cary Grant played the Mock Turtle, W.C. Fields was Humpty Dumpty and Gary Cooper, the White Knight — to the Tim Burton take that opened Friday. And it’s greater than the nearly dozen TV versions (the most recent a Syfy miniseries that included Kathy Bates as the evil Queen of Hearts who happens to run an emotion-emptying casino and Harry Dean Stanton as a shadowy operative code-named “the Caterpillar“).

When you start adding in the broader popular culture influences that can be found everywhere from music ( Jefferson Airplane’sWhite Rabbit,” the Beatles I Am the Walrus”), to elementary school drug-education (a 1972 program funded by the National Institute of Mental Health portrayed the Hatter as an acid head, the Dormouse on downers and the March Hare as a speed freak), things get curiouser and curiouser indeed.

What is it about Alice and her friends, conjured by mathematician, logician and author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll was his pen name) that has kept them in our hearts and our frontal lobes for nearly a century and a half? And how can it be that 145 years later, this tale continues to spawn not only books and movies but a flurry of merchandise that seems to be raining down on us like an exploding pack of playing cards — tea party trinkets, Wonderland-worthy jewelry and every manner of Carrollian-themed cosmetics, cocktails and clothing?

What compels some of us to amass 4,000-piece collections of Alice-related ephemera, ink Cheshire cat tattoos into our flesh, or translate Carroll’s words into Latin and Klingon? Why do some of us (a very few of us, we hope) insist that the trip down the rabbit hole is a symbolic return to the womb, or claim that Alice is a stand-in for Jesus Christ, the Queen of England, or our inner child — or see the Cheshire Cat as an embodiment of the riddle of the universe, the Navajo trickster archetype?

One reason is surely the 7-year-old at the center of the original books….

THERE’S MORE, READ THE REST

– Adam Tschorn

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Comments


13 Responses to ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and its enduring spell on dreamers

  1. teada says:

    Ommqqoshh Alice Inn WonDerLand Iss Soo Freakinn Tiqqht..Ii Feltt Likee a Lil kidd Watchen That Moviie/IItts grreat

  2. Jacub says:

    That's so true.
    Also, I had so much fun when I found this: http://photosplash.net/index/chosen/effect/45
    becoming the Mad Hatter!

  3. We love her so much we named our magazine after her and devoted our latest issue to her!

  4. Jethro says:

    Why can't we just enjoy this for what it was meant to be, a fun fariry tale for kids fo all ages to enjoy. Right away the religois sect has to chime in, I see no coorelation to Alice being jesus. Then comes the PSYCHO therapists saying that going down a dirt hole represents going back to the womb, come on gimme a break it's a FREAKING fairy tale.
    I could go on but nough said for now. Let's just enjoy the tale.

  5. irem tatlidede says:

    Dedicated to "Alice in Wonderland"
    "Alice in Wonderland"…
    I was waiting for that movie for a long time.
    Alice was my only fairytale hero from the childhood and also now.
    I didn't know what exactly made me to adore her when I was a child.
    She was different,she was brave,she did what she believed,she had found the wonderland:)
    As I became adult, I started to figure out why she is my hero.
    She made her own path,no matter what others say..
    She didn't loose her muchness.
    She made her way to find who "Alice" is…
    She is brave.
    She changed all fearfull situations by facing them with love.
    She is aware that the dreams are as real as we visualize them…
    And the most of all :
    She is keep making the exercise of thinking 6 (im)possible thing before breakfast.
    This metaphor is great…
    Dear Alice,thank you for giving me strength to believe that everything is possible.
    Thanks for all fairytale heros that helps us to find the real hero inside of us.
    And thanks to Tim Burton for this great movie,I love the way he creates new worlds.Hope he will not loose his muchness…
    And Johnny Depp ,no more words for your great play,I adore you,too.

  6. Melissa says:

    This movie did not seem to be made for kids, half of the stuff that was said in the movie or done a kid would not understand. I think this movie was meant more for adults. Great great movie none the less, big big fan of Disney and Johnny depp and Anne hathaway!!!

  7. mel says:

    Don't try to Analyze a movie that came out YEARS ago hats stupid! There is no hidden agenda to this movie, just like all disney movies it is made to be ENJOYED not Analyzed! Stupid media!

  8. rob obrien says:

    Alice is timeless and this movie will become part of the larger cult of Alice. Burton is clever, but Carroll is real genius. Read or reread the classic. There is so much in it.
    Get it at <a href="http://www.WonderlandBook.com” target=”_blank”>www.WonderlandBook.com.
    The unabridged version with illustrations that enhances the story.

  9. rob obrien says:

    Alice is timeless and this movie will become part of the larger cult of Alice. Burton is clever, but Carroll is real genius. Read or reread the classic. There is so much in it. Get it at <a href="http://www.WonderlandBook.com” target=”_blank”>www.WonderlandBook.com. The unabridged version with illustrations that enhances the story.

  10. John Wariner says:

    Oh for heaven's sake. Alice was not a stand in for Jesus. Fanny Brice was!

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