1 Running head: FINAL PAPER A trip of Alice in Wonderland

Running head: FINAL PAPER
A trip of Alice in Wonderland
Hawaii Pacific University
Donlapak Ekraksasilchai
Brian Cannon, Ph.D.
COM 6060
In the mid – 19 century, the period of Victorian literature, it is undeniable to appreciate
the popular author of children's literature with a strong moralistic tone like Lewis Carroll.
Carroll's masterpiece of children's nonsense fiction are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland(1865)
and Through the Looking-Glass(1872)inspiring several screen adaptations and has been
developed into a number of stage productions. The latest version by the famous director Tim
Burton had hit movie screens on March 2010.It is 108 minutes long and released by Walt Disney
Pictures. After I watched the movie on the big screen, I found myself wondering that who is the
target market here? Because the movie surprised me because it's not quit what I experienced with
Disney films. Christensen (2010) argues that the directing style of Tim Burton emphasized the
dark side of human nature and a dark humor pervades his work. The themes of misery,
strangeness, and death, dark colors, animation are the trademarks of Tim Burton's body of work
(Christensen, 2010).
This essay aims to interpret the film by using Foss' "broad-brush" approach for textual
analysis to notice and interpret the major features in the artifact. In addition, I also use the
contextual analysis in order to assess the film within the context. Psychological approach
explains the strategies used to accomplish the kinds of messages that are being communicated
through the particular rhetorical visions. I chose to develop three areas focusing on Tim Burton's
Alice in Wonderland version. The first is the analyzing in terms of the genre of children's fantasy
literature; what part does fantasy play in the story by comparing the Carroll's original book and
the second version of Disney's Alice. The second is to develop for previous assumptions on
textual analysis, the Alice was experiencing drug influence according to her trip to Wonderland,
whether she using drug for drug abuse or for medication. The last area is the feminist aspect that
has been promoted in the movie.
Research Question
What does Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland communicate regarding Children's fantasy
literature, drug abuse or medication, and feminism?
Textual analysis
As several scholars connect Alice's events with drug-related hallucinations, therefore, I
first intrigue to decode the movie by focusing on the events in Alice in Wonderland that support
the claims of drug references. I use generative criticism to code Alice's events and analyze their
intensity, frequency and pattern to explain her drug use. The film had several patterns, with
events of frequency and intensity to suggest drug use.
After Alice left the wedding, she fell down the rabbit hole and was faced with the
challenge of unlocking doors. She drank a bottle of potion labeled "Drink Me" and it made her
extremely small. Alice then realized that she had left the key on top of the table, found a cake
that had "Eat Me" on it under the table and ate it. She grew taller, grabbed the key, drank the
potion and entered the door into Wonderland. While Alice was in the rabbit hole, she
independently chose to eat and drink these things while stating, "This is only a dream". Her
choices were significant because eating and drinking in the film became patterns and can be
interpreted as taking drugs. Every time she ate or drank, Alice's physical state changed. The
intensity of her physical state change also related to her psychedelic change.
Alice would often see new characters and animals after eating or drinking. These
characters and events can be interpreted as hallucinations from psychedelic drug use. When she
left the rabbit hole, Alice looked lost in Wonderland and was greeted by unknown creatures. The
White Rabbit, Dormous, Dodo, and twins were all new to her but somehow they knew her. The
next few times she ate or drank in the film, was when she was offered. She was told to eat and
drink again from Hatter and the White Queen. Other hallucinations were The Blue Caterpillar
and the disappearing cat. Alice walks through a misty field of thick mushrooms to meet the blue
caterpillar that smokes a hookah. The caterpillar blows smoke towards Alice's face three times
during the conversation.
In the dialogue of the film, Alice makes several references about being in a dream. There
was a pattern of her mentioning a dream and it showed a frequency of ten quotes. Alice's
reference to dreams can be denial that she's really in Wonderland and disorientation of what's
going on during her trip. Some examples are "This is a dream. It can't hurt me." or "This is a
dream. All I have to do is wake up." These quotes suggest that Alice is a experiencing thing
outside of reality.
Later in the story, Alice was attacked by the Red Queen's pet Bandersnatch and was
clawed on her arm. Following that attack was when she realized, "I thought I was dreaming, but
this couldn't happen in a dream." Alice made an attempt to wake up by pinching her arm and
stated, "I can't wake up no matter how hard I pinch myself." The interpretation of this event
could be that Alice wanted to bring herself back to reality. Also, the effect of drugs can cause
denial, self-inflicted wounds and periods of psychedelic visions.
The connection of the beginning to the end of her trip to wonderland shows the
consistency of drug usage as well as the effect of hallucinogenic drugs throughout the movie.
The slowing down sensation is found in the very first scenes of Alice's in Wonderland, when she
is falling down the rabbit hole. While falling and tripping in the wonderland, she had plenty of
time as she went down to reflect on things.
The drugs references could imply when Alice starts seeing and hearing jingling which no
one could see like her. Also, It is undeniable to look closely at Alice's face expression at the
beginning of the story through the end – whey face, sadness, confuse and full of curiosity of
Alice could be good evidences of her sickness or drug usage implication.
Contextual Analysis
Children's Fantasy Literature
The term of children's literature is used sometimes to eliminate young-adult fiction, or
comic books from other genres. It targets the readers and listeners who do not exceed twelve
years old and is often illustrated. The body of the literature produced to entertain or teach young
audience (Lesnik, 1994). I was intrigued to look at the genre of the original book Alice's
Adventures in Wonderland(1865)and Through the Looking-Glass, and what Alice found there
(1872) and the movie adaptation of Alice in Wonderland (2010) to explain the rhetoric's message
that was conveyed to the audience.
There are some differences between the original book and the movie adaptation. First, the
Alice's character in the movie is 19 years old but she was a young girl in the books. Second, in
the book the land is called Wonderland but Underland is used in the movie. Third, the Ascots
and Charles Kingsleigh are the character that created for the movie but never appear in the
books. Alice also falls down to the rabbit hole after running away from the unexpected
engagement ceremony in the movie, while Alice wandering away from her sister's side makes
her fall down into the rabbit hole in the book. Lastly, the majority of friends that she encounters
in the Underland seem to have reasons to unite against the red queen, on the other hand, Alice
have unclear mission in Wonderland.
The book: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland(1865)& Through the Looking-Glass
,and what Alice found there (1872)
Some literary say the original books are light, cheerful and greatly surreal. Lecercle
(1994) claims that the book is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense
fiction for children. He also suggests that its narrative course and structure have been extremely
influential, especially in the fantasy genre. Bush (2004) mentions that Lewis Carroll's Alice's
Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glasses enjoyed as fiction by children and
is fascinating to adults as symbolic and an indirect representation on numerous levels. Bush also
claims that Carroll was as intrigued with the study of language as he was with mathematics. As a
book intended for children, but written with an adult's wit and a mathematician's sense of vision,
Carroll fills Alice with crass joke and brainteasers.
The movie: Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Cengage (1997) mentioned that several critics have shown that even as fantasy gained
acceptance as literature for children, it was considered unacceptable for adults to enjoy the genre.
Tim Burton changed that. In effort to entertain adults, the stylishly darker world of a Burton
changes the classic tale and features more "adult" elements by including elements of an action
film. Because it tries to make the best of the both worlds, Gorgan (2010) reviewed that it did not
make it more pleasant for younger audience.
Since adaptation of the story takes Alice into adulthood, she turns 19, the plot involved
the threat of an arranged marriage to Hamish Ascot and the lost of her beloved father, the
inclusion of new characters and situation made the movie more intent and appreciated by the
adult audience. The atmosphere the film created made Underland's sky not as blue as it should
be, could have been the highlight of change from the fairly tale to the action film. The plot
contained the clear mission of the journey that made more sense and was reasonable.
Furthermore, the standout characters of the Mad Hatters, the smoking Blue Catapillar, smiling
Cheshire cat can be recalled in the characteristically Burtonesque landscape very well. Several
movie reviewers rated Alice in Wonderland as a Parental Guidance (PG), a movie that needs
parents make a decision whether a movie is suitable for their children, for fantasy action or
violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar version.
Drug abuse/ medication
Rooy (2008) asserts that in the Victorian era there were no drugs prohibited. An
estimated five out of six blue collar working class English families used opium on a regular basis
in Victorian England. Therefore, cocaine, opium and laudanum were commonly used for
medicinal purposes, and could be prescribed by a pharmacist. As the movie is set in the Victorian
England era, Connell (1993) states that the widespread use of opium during the Victorian era
may have influenced or been reflected in Alice in Wonderland. Connell's claim became more
apparent after I viewed Burton's film. I personally agree with others scholars and critics who
connect Alice's events with drug-related hallucination. After I used Foss "broad-brush" approach
to look at patterns, with event of frequency and intensity to suggest drug use in textual analysis, I
concur that Alice was on drug. I have touched on the reason why it could claim that Alice was on
drug and the reason behind.
From the Tim Burton's plot adaptation, the great lost of her visionary father, Alice then
become depressed and lost of her self-assertiveness and the very proper Victorian ideas of how
things should and should not that most of them have to do with respectability and organize. It
could be a good evidence for using drug for a medication purpose. By treating Alice's mental
illnesses, she might use opium the popular drug in Victorian era for both pain relief, and relief
from depression, and anxieties. Alice's trip to underworld could be an effect of hallucinogenic
drugs of drug usage. The drugs made her feel free and allowed her to explore an alternative
route. The entire adventure in Wonderland was a psychedelic trip of empowerment and selfachievement. Furthermore, It is undeniable to look closely at Alice's face expression at the
beginning of the story through the end – whey face, sadness, confuse and full of curiosity of
Alice could be good evidences of her sickness or drug usage implication.
Feminism/ Women Power
Another major area that easily to recognize in the movie is the outstanding of the girl
power and the strong female character whether from the main character of Alice, and the major
characters. According to Walker (2010), he claims that Tim Burton uses fantasy, parody, and
contemporary psychoanalytical interest to illuminate deluded gender roles and resulting
oppression. Tanese (2010) also supports that Alice in Wonderland is a good example of woman's
psychology of liberation - women must free themselves from the inner chains that held her back
and enter the Wonderland.
Several movie reviewers praised Alice as an icon of female empowerment for her denial respond
to a marriage proposal in front of the crowd and making decision of the battle with Jabberwalker.
It comes a time when a girl needs to speak up for herself and stand for who she is.
Looking at the beginning of the story the end of the story, there are many feminism
related issues thought out the story. While Burton creates the character of Hamish Ascot, the
fiancé-to-be, who has an extremely odd-looking man, dull, hateful, and deeply embedded in
ordinariness, Alice is opposite. She is bright, rebellious, and a visionary. Once Alice falls into
Underland, she has to reconsider her identity from not longer wife potential to the warrior
women who must reconnect with her bravery, insight and courage to save the underworld. Tim
Burton has presented his feminist ideals in directing Alice in Wonderland. Apart from illustrating
Alice as an, powerful rescuer, evolving; he deride some of the more prescribed roles for women.
The goodness and light of white queen could be a good example - the ballet style
movements and the over light steps. Furthermore, some critics bring up about Alice's aunt who
sits alone waiting for her prince that just only worthy lady should await her courteous prince, just
as the aunt is doing. Alice in the scene emphasizes the ideal of feminism by telling her aunt to
stop waiting for non-existing princes, also inviting her to awaken and cherish her own power.
The hookah-smoking caterpillar also be the strong evidence of feminism in the movie. Absolem
is always being an Alice's guidance. He taught Alice to not to fear death, and to accept change as
both predictable and evolutionary. The end of the story when Alice return to the upperland, it
shows that Alice in envision her father dream, and the freedom of choice. Alice makes a business
expanding to Asia with her father's co-worker. She sets off on her travels and follows her dream.
I notice that Alice has come across the gender rules set up by the society and doesn't have to
depend on the expectations that determine what she can and can't do. Ultimately, some scholar
looks some other aspect of feminism like Rickard (2010). He supports that the actor Mia
Wasikowska could be symbolized stereotypical femininity as Alice. With Burton's choice, she
has long blond hair and slim shape, and delicate skin texture.
From the study of textual analysis, I found that events in Alice in Wonderland
support the claims of drug references through my analysis of visual and contextually scenes
throughout Burton's movie. It is a movie for kids but one also with a hidden message. All the
events that happened in Wonderland involved psychedelic drugs use to achieve a hallucinogenic
visions. In the real world at the wedding, she was distracted by the white rabbit and left her
ceremony. After falling into the rabbit hole, she drank and ate drugs that lead her to the
hallucination of Wonderland. All the events and characters unfolded as an effect of the drugs.
The generative criticism allowed me to analyze Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in a
different perspective. Using Foss' broad batch coding, several patterns became apparent
throughout Alice's adventure in Wonderland. The relationship between coding and interpretation
support the analysis of the artifact. Also, the result of curious text was revealed when I
encountered incomplete arguments.
The three areas of research I have detailed – the clarify terms of the children's fantasy
literature that play in the story of "Alice in Wonderland.", the explanation whether Alice using
drug for medication, ill-treatment, or misuse, and the feminism role that present in the movie serve as the means by which filmmaker Tim Burton of Alice in Wonderland effectively shifted
the story from a child Alice to a near-adult Alice. As the analysis affirm that the movie is not
rated as a children's fantasy. Tim Burton put his unique style of directing into Alice in
Wonderland. Whether the dark setting, the scary images and situations, the adaptation plot that
involving the escape of marriage ceremony, it could be a good evidence that the movie primary
target on young adults people to adults rather than children. As the assumptions about Alice was
on drug – opium from my previous research, the Victorian era drug laws could be a great support
the idea of Alice drug usage. As opium was used to relief the pain and mental illness, the trip to
Wonderland and all the events might be the effect of drug using to achieve hallucinogenic
visions. So Alice used drugs to fight the loss of her father and social pressures. The drugs made
her feel free, allowed her to explore an alternative route, find her identity and empower selfachievement. The last area of feminism have develop is the script and other elements of the
movie that has established the favor of lots of girl-power feminism and bright the light important
perspective about woman's psychology. Scholars named the strong Alice as a credible passive
Victorian lady who stick to her own different mindset.
The contextual analysis allowed me to situating the text within the situation of its times
and assessing the roles of author, readers, filmmaker, audience and commentators (reviews and
critics) in the reception of the text. The relationship between coding and interpretation support
the analysis of the artifact. Also, the result of curious text was revealed when I encountered
incomplete arguments. In conclusion, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland well done in presenting
the classic fairy tale with all his strengths, in particular his skillful of-style imagination
For the further research, I'd like to look more on the ethical issue relate to animal right
message, the treatment of animals takes center stage; for example; the cruel of being Red
Queen's slaves such as pigs, frogs, flamingo bird, and the killing Jabberwalker by sharp knives,
and so on.
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