*Disclaimer: This was my first time viewing a move in Imax 3-D so it may have some effect. It also needs to be stated that this movie is beyond white. I don’t recall seeing a single POC at all, in both kingdoms. I wanted to clarify this because although I think the character of Alice can be a good role model for little girls I also realize that this is another situation of privilege in which many of the “good role models” always look like me and it needs to be acknowledged and held in the fore front while watching the movie.
That being said, I enjoyed the character of Alice in Tim Burton’s reimagining of the classic tale and the journey he takes our precocious heroine on throughout the story. The story begins with Alice being 19. She has convinced herself that her first trip to Wonderland was all a dream and is looking at a dismal future ahead of her. Her father has died and her mother has been forced to sell the business to his partner. The only hope she has left is for her daughter to marry this partner’s son. It is clear the mother is not happy about this path and she is by no means an evil mother figure that is usually prominent in Disney movies. Instead, she is resigned to what her lot is in life and what must happen. Alice spends the beginning of a party realizing that she is actually at her engagement party and being pressured by cousins and her sister to just marry the guy already, no matter how much you don’t like him. His mother tries to sell her on how she must take very good care of her special boy and she catches her brother in law cheating on her sister and without missing a beat have him twist the blame on her for ruining her sister’s life if we she says something. The entire time you can see it on Alice’s face: These people think I’m peculiar but nothing about this world makes sense either. She is proposed too in front of the entire party but is able to make her escape to chase the white rabbit.
Alice lands in Wonderland and is confronted with characters debating whether she is the “real” Alice. The reveal to her that she is foretold to defeat the JaberWockie and are disappointed when she claims she is dreaming and that she is not the Alice that they think she is. It is only after a confrontation with the Mad Hatter where he tells her that she’s “lost her muchness” after she vehemently swears she cannot possibly do what they expect of her that you start to see Alice realize what her life has done to her.
Of course Alice learns to gain back her “muchness” which really means to have faith in herself and her ability and that she can do things if she believes she can. (Her example of one impossible thing involves her triumphing in battle). She returns to her home where she turns down an engagement, negotiates a deal to continue to be a partner in her father’s business and charters a new path to achieve more than other men had ever attempted.
It’s a simple story but it’s true. We think about what we tell little girls. That they can be whatever they want, we encourage their precociousness and marvel at their lack of fear. Yes they are also inundated with passive princesses and cleaning supplies designed as toys but there is something indominatable to the child’s spirit that everyone admires. A belief that if they just try or believe than it could be true.
That changes though as women get older. We’re told we can have it all then are shamed for our choices. We are told there are things we just can’t do and are constantly being told to be scared of the rapist in the bushes or under your car or in your backyard. We are called on less in math and science we are told that whatever we do is good “for a girl” or we are used to hearing surprise in the voices of other people when we succeed at something other than women’s work. It takes a toll and it’s not wonder that the confidence we feel as kids can be stripped away from us. Put away such childish things, such as belief in yourself, and ignorance of a gender heirarchy that puts you at different levels of the bottom depending on your race, sexuality or trans status. Things that have no bearing on our intelligence, skill set, etc start to be more important. Our energy becomes something to be harnessed (sit down, sit like a lady) and we learn that ambition is a dangerous thing.
It’s all designed to make us less and what it does is diminish our confidence in ourselves and hurts a world that depends on us and our “muchness” to make it a better place.