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Why No One Cares About Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) comes out today, and when a movie adaptation comes out I try to read the original story so I can sniff self-righteously "the book was better." I thought about reading the original novels and realized that I have no interest in them. Now, I admit I'm just a typical "ugly American," but I don't think I'm alone.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll are available to download for free from Project Gutenberg, but I doubt anyone is going to bother. Here are three reasons why:

The Characters - Most people think they know what the original characters are like, but they're wrong.  Even the new movie plays on the misconceptions of the characters by combining the Queen of Hearts, who ruled playing cards, and the Red Queen, who ruled chess pieces into one character. In the novels, Alice was a polite and proper English young lady, so a lot of remakes cast her older and edgier to make her interesting. Even if you asked people the names of the characters they'd be wrong. For example, the novel only calls Alice's tea party friend "The Hatter" or "Hatta," but we know him as "Mad Hatter."

The Original Stories are Old - Lewis Carroll published these stories in 1865, which is a long time ago. They didn't have the Internet, cell phones or even telephones. In an age where most people won't watch movies like Casablanca because it feels old, how many are going to sit through the slow pace of a novel from the 1800s? Also, the humor is kind of dated. Phrases like Alice's "I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, Sir, because I'm not myself you see" sent old English types squirting milk through their noses. If you didn't find yourself ROFLOL, then you probably wouldn't find the novels very funny. In the age of Twitter and textspeak wordplay is more common and not as interesting.

The Disney Movie - The Disney animated movie from 1952 is a major reason why people don't want to read the novel, so I set it as a separate category entirely. When we're children, anything we see or hear gets tattooed in our brains, and most kids are more likely to see a cartoon than read a book. So, it makes sense that most people have been Disneyfied before even hearing of the tomes. From small things like appearance to major things like names and characters are differ vastly from the movie. In the original story, Alice is a seven-year-old girl, but the movie has her closer to twelve and a blond in a blue dress. It's a great movie, but was so different from the original novel that it was panned by critics and was a box office disappointment.  But, thanks to the magic of television, it got a greater audience and was eventually accepted by later generations.

The novels are literary masterpieces, but in this day and age people don't have the time to explore the novels. However, its themes of exploration, and loss of innocence have resonated for over a hundred years and delight audiences around the world. There are no fewer than twenty-four movie and television adaptations of the novel and I doubt Burton's film will be the last. Not to mention other films, like The Matrix, Pan's Labyrinth or even Resident Evil that use the themes and character archetypes.

Do you think you'd read the original Alice in Wonderland novels? If so why? Let us know in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. The original Disney movie was a flop? I did not know that. As far as the books, people are prone to avoid them in this country in general, much less one over a hundred years old.


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