The 1951 Walt Disney film, Alice in Wonderland has been created based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. The film industry then produced a live-action movie, Alice in Wonderland in 2010 directed by Tim Burton. The adventurous fantasy then inspired another film, Alice Through the Looking Glass in 2016 which was a sequel to the 2010 movie. The Walt Disney Pictures film, Alice In Wonderland, features film stars, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, and Mia Wasikowska. I found this movie the most intriguing and entertaining, therefore it is analyzed below!
Alice Kingsleigh is a nineteen year-old English girl and daughter of Charles Kingsleigh, a wealthy man who planned shipping routes in the 19th century. She constantly tries to explain her very strange dreams to her dad, but he declares her as mad. Her dad sadly passes away, and she is taken by her widowed mother to a party. Little does she know she is attending her own engagement party and being forced into marrying a wealthy English nobleman, Hamish. She is distracted by an unusual looking rabbit in the garden, which she decides to follow. Alice quickly tumbles down a hole and falls to the “Underland,” where she finds herself in the center of the nightmares she had as a child. She immediately finds a drink that makes her shrink, and a cake that makes her grow. The “underland” is filled with talking animals, queens, knights, and other strange things she once dreamt of. Alice then realizes that she is there to restore the White Queen to her throne. She is chosen to slay the Jabberwocky, a dragon-like creature, which is kept by the Red Queen of Hearts who also terrorizes “Underland’s” inhabitants. Her journey to end the Red Queen’s reign of terror is adventurous and stressful, as she encounters multiple hurdles on her journey.
Alice is a curious young girl who constantly questions everything around her. She does not understand the need to adhere to so many societal norms. Alice is displayed as a rebel, who attempts to break out of the everyday stereotypes of a woman in the Victorian Era. Alice is the main heroine of the story, who displays a lot of courage and independence throughout the movie.
The two theoretical frameworks in which I will analyze are feminist criticism and Marxist criticism.
“Feminist criticism examines the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforces or undermines the economic, political, social and psychological oppression of women” (Barry). Feminism views portray the reality of how gender roles are represented. Feminist criticism involves defining what it means to be a woman. Feminist principles are critiqued and analyzed based on the way literature portrays women in media.
Alice has a large imagination which causes her to explore life’s mysteries. Her curiosity and confidence strikes viewers as “breaking” the shell of a Victorian woman. In the Victorian Era, gender roles were based on the natural characteristics of the two sexes. Women were believed to be physically weaker than men. Alice alternatively displays bravery throughout her adventure, along with strength. In the movie, there are multiple creatures that tell Alice what and what not to do, but this does not stop Alice on her heroic journey. She is not afraid to speak her mind, no matter who she encounters.
Although she is an innocent young woman, Alice physically fights and slays the Jabberwocky, which is typically what a stereotypical male hero would do. This scene in the movie portrays Alice overcoming typical feminist critiques. She breaks the norms of femininity when sacrificing her life to slay the Jabberwocky. She realizes no one else can do this, and therefore takes it bestow herself to get the job done. Alice breaks the norms of typical feminine roles when she fights and kills the Jabberwocky. She sacrifices herself to save the world of the “Underland.”
The second theoretical framework that applies to Alice in Wonderland is Marxism. Marxism is an economic and social system based upon the political and economic theories of Karl Marx. It is also described as, “a theory in which class struggle is a central element in the analysis of social change in Western societies” (Barry). Public ownership of production ways, distribution, and exchange mechanisms remains dominant in a Marxist society. In simpler terms, Marxism theorizes that human identity, conflict, social arrangements, and political orders are all based on the role of economics. Economics run a society, which is essentially capitalism. The rich succeed and the poor diminish. Capitalist societies value individuality, competitiveness, and materialism. Those who have the control or power are known as the bourgeoisie, and those who are below without a share of profit are called the proletariat.
Within Alice in Wonderland, social classes are heavily portrayed. The royals are shown as mad and not having a care about others or the ones below them. They have followers and servants who cater to their needs. Alice is arranged to marry a man, solely for his money. This is found to be typical for the Victorian Era. Alice really has no say in who she marries or when, until she escapes her vows and leaves the party. This causes her to rebel against her mother and future fiance’s parents. She is not afraid to speak her mind when she goes against the norms and tells Hamish that she is not ready to marry him. Alice goes against the theoretical “norms” of a high class young adult as she questions life and does not follow what seems to be a logical path.
Education is a big part of Marx’s theory of societal norms. Alice is proud of the education she has received and thrives to constantly learn new things. She represents an aristocrat class citizen who is educated and has many privileges.
The animals that Alice meets in the “Underland” are considered to be part of the lower class. The two Queens are obviously high-class citizens. The Red Queen displays pity among others as she has everyone else do things for her. She is bossy and engulfed by materialistic items. The characters within different classes do not interact well with one another. One example from the story is when their is a croquet game at the Red Queen’s castle. She is rude and will often repeat, “Off with their head,” signaling to kill anyone who stands below her on Marx’s class system.
The cultural significance of Tim Burton’s, Alice in Wonderland, is demonstrated during the Mad Hatter’s tea party that takes place during the movie. A formal tea party was a function that pertained to the higher classes in the Victorian Era. Social norms and cultural rules were highly important. Despite these rules, the tea party in the movie is chaotic and displays the opposite of that you would find in real life. Another aspect of the movie that portrays Marx’s theory involves the dormouse. He is a symbol of the proletariat who is abused by larger and more powerful animals. He is tiny and insignificant and never voices his opinions. This demonstrates the cultural significance of different classes during the Victorian Era.The Red Queen of Hearts symbolizes monarchy and requires everyone below her to do as she pleases. Alice claims that all citizens are included in the “pack of cards,” meaning that all citizens belong to the same deck of cards. The Red Queen abuses her power, although they all belong to the same group.
Although Alice is expected to be an “angel of the home,” she goes against societal norms of the Victorian Era and acts brave, active, and impatient. She rebels against her family and friends and proves others of what she is capable of!