March 5th, 2010 is a date to remember in the minds of Burton/Depp fans the world over. Tim Burton, the king of modern Gothic movies, has combined his unique visions with his favorite actor Johnny Depp to take on the well –recognized story of Alice in Wonderland. However, this newest rendition of Lewis Carroll’s story brings up certain questions regarding the understanding of a classical work created in 1860’s Victorian England.
Originally written for Alice Liddell, often Lewis Carroll’s tale is interpreted loosely as a drug induced nonsensically voyage of fantasy for children. In truth, Carroll’s tale is filled with heavy political satire. Throughout the book Carroll bitingly criticizes the school system of Victorian Britain, beginning with Alice’s self commentary that the only good use of knowledge is repetition for an audience, but “still it was good practice to say over,” (15).
Similar to Charles Dickens commentary in Bleak House, Carroll exposes Britain’s backwards judiciary system as a king requests the jury’s verdict prior to the trial (127). In fact, nothing is sacred in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as Carroll even ridicules England’s traditional institution of drinking tea with his characters of the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and Dormouse.
All of these criticisms are artfully disguised in fantasy literature given to the daughter of the head of Christ Church, possibly another tongue in cheek mockery.
Yet these politically minded aspects are often absent from modern day renditions of the story. Burton’s brilliant auteur directorship will be enjoyed, but this newest rendition brings up one important question. Has the mainstream fascination with Alice in Wonderland brought about more interest in the genius classic political satire, or has the media blitz over the years diluted the true art of the novel?
Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Barnes & Nobles Classics; New York, New York: 2003.