24/07/2016

Alice In Wonderland - The Wonderland Paradox

Thoughts On: Alice In Wonderland (1951)


An imaginative, rather restless, young girl falls down a rabbit hole into a twisted, nonsensical world.


As crazy, psychedelic, surreal, fucked up and confusing as this film seems to be, it's a pretty simple one. In short, the moral of this story is: don't be an asshole. The purpose of the narrative is then an argument towards, or a breakdown of, how people end up being just that - a major asshole. To get into this we need to know what Wonderland is and what its rules are. So, firstly, Wonderland is not a land of wonder, not a land that's amazing, awe inspiring, fascinating all those other synonyms. The Wonder in Wonderland is in simple reference to thought. It's Imaginationland. But, that doesn't have much of a ring to it, whereas Wonderland does. So, the next question to ask is whose imagination is this a projection of? Simple - Alice's. And it's Alice that give us the rules of her own fantastical world. They are:

Everything is nonsense
Nothing is what it is because everything would be what it isn't
And contrariwise, what it is, it wouldn't be
And what it wouldn't be, it would

Ok, these are lines picked straight form the film (some tenses changed) and seem like nonsense themselves, leaving you to assume that because the rules are nonsense, the world is too. Well, you'd be kind of right in assuming this. But, Alice actually gives the nonsense rules. It's a defined lack of sense in other words, which means, if you put in a little effort, the code of nonsense is hackable. This is very important to understand because you have to accept that Alice is making up the rules of Wonderland. A person can't make up nonsense in the same way they can't punch themselves in the face and knock themselves out. To knock anyone out, you need an element of surprise. When you know you're trying to knock yourself out, you know what's coming and what you're trying to do. As a result, you just end up in pain and looking pretty stupid. The counter argument to this is that people can knock themselves out by holding their breath. This is true and it does imply that you can overcome your subconsciousness to do yourself harm. But, the equivalent to holding your breath for a minute or two to then pass out in terms of physical blows would be repeatedly slamming your head against a wall. Eventually you'd knock yourself out. But, with all my YouTubing I've found that no one can knock themself out with one blow from their own fist. You get idiots running and jumping into door frames, but this doesn't count. You have no conscious feeling or awareness of the door. The same goes for smashing yourself over the head with a bat. But, even with those videos, you never get someone do it first time because of fear. This means that the only knock outs are accidents with inanimate objects, such as someone spinning a stick and catching themself on the side of the head. Now, there's one more argument here. Boxers sometimes knock themselves out with an uppercut. Again, yes this is true. But, it is an unintentional blow - they manage to surprise themselves. They swing for their opponent, missing and KABLAM. They wake up like, 'shit, what did I do?'. But, what on Earth has this got do with Alice In Wonderland? Well, it's simple. My point here is that Alice cannot metaphorically punch herself in the face and knock herself out with one blow. She cannot produce a nonsense world intentionally in other words. She creates the rules by breaking those she already knows of. This means she has the codes to The Matrix. What are those codes? Well, before we get into that, I know there's got to be someone out there who wants to find a video of a guy punching themself in the face and knocking himself out in one blow. Please prove me wrong:


I had no luck in finding anything. But, please, don't hurt yourselves. I don't need to get sued. (Probably never happen anyways). Ok, huge tangent over, let's look at the rules again:

Everything is nonsense
Nothing is what it is because everything would be what it isn't
And contrariwise, what it is, it wouldn't be
And what it wouldn't be, it would

The first one is easy, we won't waste out time on that one. The second line simply means she wants to live in opposite land. In short, the Kardashians are Nobel prize winners, Einstein invented the whoopee cushion, your Dad breastfeeds you and Adam Sandler's hilarious--you get the point. Alice simply wants truth to be represented by an opposite symbol. The third point convolutes things however. The manifestations just discussed couldn't be because they're all to obvious. What appears in Wonderland can't be a polar opposite. So, your Dad would still be breastfeeding you, but you'd call him Mum, all whilst he still has a dong (no intentional transphobia). Now, pile on the last rule. This one is all about ensuring that the non-polar-opposite just created by the third rule isn't too obvious. There's two ways you can interpret this. You could employ a little reverse psychology and say Dad's still called mum, he still breastfeeds me and, yeah, dong in tact. Or you could further mess things up and say your Dad is still breastfeeding you, but, calling him Mum would be too easy. You'd have to call him Gran, but he'd still have a dong (seriously, no intentional transphobia). All of this means that step one is now the rule of the world - nonsense. To clarify, to create nonsense you firstly say heads equals tails:


You can't have polar opposites though, so you then say that tails in fact equals the side of the coin:


This is all still too easy, we've flipped the tables systematically. We've said heads equals tails - obvious. Tails then equals the edge - the only move left over. This could be fine though as 'what it isn't, it still can be', meaning as long as heads isn't heads, you're cool. But, you could then say heads equals tails and tails equals the side, however, we're going to call the side 'heads'. In the end, this means you get this:


So, to give an actual example from Wonderland, let's run through things.

Everything is nonsense


Nothing is what it is because everything would be what it isn't


And contrariwise, what it is, it wouldn't be


And what it wouldn't be, it would



Hectic, I know. But, you should get it by now. Why do you need to get it? Well, these are the rules of the game - of Wonderland. And when you get these rules you can understand exactly what Alice wants in life. She wants her own kind of anarchy. She wants this because sat on the tree branch she has to listen to her sister drone on about history, she has to learn the rules of life, living under someone else's dictatorship. That 'someone else' can be family, teachers, even nature or reality itself. Everyone goes through this in life, it's call puberty or the period of rebellion. It's in this state that the world isn't good enough and so we try to change it. Now, Alice as a 7 year old hasn't hit that phase just yet. But, what the film is trying to make clear to us is that this phase doesn't come out of nowhere. Teenage rebellion comes from childish imagination. When you're a kid, you're free because you see yourself as just that, because you don't have the capacity to care or worry about money, taxes, food, shelter, bills or anything else. This allows you to really absorb yourself, to care only about you, never share your toys, break down when you don't get what you want and so on. What's so important about recognising that the teenage phase of rebellion doesn't come out of nowhere, that it comes from childishness, is that it also doesn't just disappear. If you hold onto this seed of childishness, you're going to end up a miserable man/womanchild who no one likes, is impulsive, self-absorbed, a complete asshole...


... oh, so the film really opens up now. And, in a nutshell, Alice's journey through Wonderland is simply an effort in not becoming this bitch. But, whilst we now know the end moral, it's still important that we pay attention to the journey as the most important factor of this film.

Why does this all start? Why does the film essentially happen? Initially it's because Alice has an idea of a better world, one that abides by her rules of nonsense. It appears obvious that she only wants this because she is bored - she is restless. And so in comes the White Rabbit.


The White Rabbit is a great symbol that takes a poke at the go-getter, the avid businessman or woman, by comparing them to a child. A rabbit in literature is often fast, tunnel visioned and obsessed with fucking...


8 Mile reference (just in case). Also, is this essay too profane to be analysing a Disney film? Who knows? Anyway, a rabbit is tunnel visioned. Layer over this 'white' and you have an innocent or naive thoughtless character. White Rabbit in his suite with his umbrella and oversized watch obviously represents a businessman, but is actually a representation of Alice and her restlessness. But, because of the rules of Wonderland, Rabbit is as far removed from Alice herself as possible. So, what this implies is that by Alice chasing someone who is living their life blindly she has no real purpose to go into Wonderland. She follows on a whim, simply growing curiouser and curiouser without an end goal. This is the film's commentary on capitalism and obsessive materialism by the way. This also kind of begs the question why The Matrix was so intent on using the image of the White Rabbit...


... but, I'm not sure Neo and the gang knew what they were trying to achieve anyway. (Click here for more on that). Nonetheless, Alice is down the rabbit hole and as she runs toward an unknown goal there's two types of things that happen to her. Classifying them as such will help us get through this mess quickly and leave room for your personal interpretation. So, the first class of things that happen to Alice are those that make her cry (or sad). The second type are the things that frustrate or dismiss her. A key example of the first type would be getting through the first locked door. She gets trapped after eating and growing too big. She then cries, shrinks and is almost drowned by those tears. What this implies is that over-emoting isn't productive. Combine this with the fact that it's her world that traps her, that makes her cry and we can begin to see an element of self-destruction. But, let's not dive too deep into that before pulling apart the second class of event Alice experiences along her journey. These are the things that frustrate her and leave her with no answers - things like the Mad Hatter's tea party, the path through the garden with the rude flowers and the encounter with the Caterpillar. Again, it's her own rules that negate her own pragmatic exploration of herself. This is all because Wonderland is of her own imagination. It's because she wants everything to be nonsense that she suffers. What this all comes back to is childish impulsiveness. A kid (like Alice) cannot sit still to wait for answers, cannot wait to grow up, cannot answer difficult questions like whoooo rrr uuuuu or where do you belong. This deception of self is all symbolised through her having short cuts and an absence of rules (like food that makes you grow). But, in the end she's always left in a place no better than where she started - still chasing the White Rabbit.

It's after a few rounds of self-abuse that Alice is lost in the forest telling herself that she gives herself good advice, but just doesn't listen to it. This is the staple of any fuck up. We all know someone like this. They know what they are doing is stupid, that there are alternatives, that with a bit of momentary pain comes reward tenfold a little later down the line. But, these people are still fuck ups. They don't listen to sense, take your advice, let alone there own. This is Alice, and is all still all about not being grown up enough - being a child and not growing past the period of rebellion. But, having been broken down many times over, Alice seems to have an epiphany that marks a subtle change in her character. As she steps into the doorway, toward the Queen's castle she seems to become more pragmatic, less emotional, more sensical. But, she's still chasing the White Rabbit - and this is her major conflict. Now, chasing blind naivety brings her to the Queen of Hearts - someone who is very childish and very emotional. You can then imagine the Queen as representative of Alice's impulsiveness. Whereas we see Alice's impulsiveness (following the White Rabbit) have her left unheard and usually crying, the Queen does neither of these things. The Queen of Hearts (hearts being a metaphor for an emotional core if you've not picked up on that yet) is a reaction to how Wonderland makes Alice feel. Instead of being ignored by the likes of a Mad Hatter the Queen screams and shouts, demanding attention. Instead of crying in face of an issue she bellow OFF WITH ITS HEAD!! This is the commentary of the film. It says that children like Alice become adults like the Queen of Hearts. Over time their emotions, or lack of consciousness or control over them, become poisonous. You become an asshole by not seeing yourself as part of a reality, as someone whose actions have consequences. This is why the Queen of Hearts has an army of cards at her disposal. Life is just a game to her, and all that makes it up is nothing much more than a 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on. There's no real people of equal standing to herself. Furthermore, this is why the Queen likes to play games and cheats. She's nothing more than a child with a lot of power.

In the end, to escape the hell Alice thought she wanted to be apart of, that she thought would be wondrous, she simply has to wake up. She has to accept that life isn't a game, that she needs to live in a reality where you have to do things like listen to people older than you, sit through boring lessons, wait to grow up, wait to earn your intellect. Now, whilst this is a simple message, its not an easy one to live by. And that's the paradox of Wonderland. There's always a what if that has you think of your own world, of your own rules, your own way of living (one that you'll never attain) that leaves you at the least a failure, at worst an utter cunt. Don't let Imaginationland become your Wonderland. Life's hard enough as it is.

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