If you have a daughter, she has to watch Tim Burton and Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. And you should watch it with her. And afterwards, you should probably discuss a lot of stuff in it. This version of Alice in Wonderland is not fluff– thank god. If you follow me at all, you are quite aware that Disney sort of drives me bonkers with their princesses and the insane images they are pushing onto our young girls. Alice flies in the face of it so viciously, I’m honestly shocked Disney went along with the ride. I’m also insanely grateful.
Tim Burton is legendary for being dark and that notoriety has made some parents wary of his Alice. No need. When you go watch Alice, forget the cartoon. If you’ve read the books I think you’ll be pleased. This Alice is much more in line with the way dreams really unfold– mashings of memories most recent, snippets of life distorted. And while I found this Wonderland to be insanely gorgeous and absolutely mesmerizing (especially in 3-D) the real reason I think this is a must-see is because of what Burton does with the character of Alice.
I do reveal the ending so if you’re already inclined to see Alice, stop here. But if you need convincing, you need to know what happens and why I think it’s important for our girls to see.
First of all, Alice is grown up which at first might be disappointing, but be patient, this is a worthwhile change. Alice is independent of social norms and niceties, a typical no-no amongst Disney’s most popular princesses who almost always play nice. Later, Alice goes on a transformational journey (in line with the caterpillar) from a doubtful and insecure girl (something easily identified with) to a girl decked in armor who steps forth to take the role of champion for a Queen tasked with the challenge of slaying a Jabberwocky (a dragon-esque nasty creature). Finally, you see the equivalent of marriage mandated as a punishment (complete with ball and chain imagery) and Alice not only refuses the “sensible” choice of marriage but goes into business– as a merchant’s apprentice who goes exploring.
For the first time ever, Disney gives us a movie with an almost anti-marriage message. Yes, the foundations were laid with the books– the Queen of HEARTS was always a villain, but Tim Burton blows it up with incredible mastery of details. And it’s a recognition of the fact that messages are conveyed directly and subtly that makes this movie so important for our princess-possesed daughters. Alice is not petulant at first but then finds her true love and all that nonsense. The message clearly is there is much more to life than marriage for a young woman. This is what Miss Independent is really about. It’s a message sorely overdue in the Disney arena.
My only dilemma with Alice is that I simply cannot confidently advocate taking a very young girl, such as my own three and a half year old daughter, to watch it. And yet, I’m conflicted because I believe that it is at her tender age where this sort of thing is necessary. It’s something that I am trying to come to terms with myself and if you have ideas, I would like to hear them. I know that if I did convince myself to take her, it would have to be the 2-D version for starters. I am also pretty sure that it should be something I go to with just her so that she has my individual attention. I know that there are parts that will frighten her (she is frightened by scenes in Snow White and Little Mermaid for instance) but I also believe there is much more good to this movie than bad. I’d like to hear from those of you who saw it regarding this aspect.
Hopefully, if you have been on the fence about this movie, my review will give you some enocouragement to give it a shot. It has a lot to say and I think we Moms need to listen and our daughters really do need alternatives to Princess fluff. As Jefferson Airplane famously said in their Alice in Wonderland song White Rabbit, “Feed your head.”