Posted by: jordanelassonde | December 2, 2014

Image Manipulation in Alice

Alice_In_Wonderland_(2010)_coverAfter reading Alice last week, I was reminded of the recent Alice movie remake (the one with Johnny Depp). I happen to own the movie and over break, despite a lack of power (praise be to generators) and perhaps because of the lack of cable, my family ended up watching an abundance of movies including Alice in Wonderland.

While watching the movie, I was struck by how much the movie departed from the actual text. The movie was a mash up of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (if only because the slaying of the Jabberwocky occurs on a chess board). While the differences are interesting, though perhaps not unexpected, they are not what really caught my interest.

The Alice in Wonderland movie is unique in its distortion of the human figure. The distortions are reminiscent of fun house mirrors. In the text, Alice is distorted a few times by eating and drinking certain concoctions and this does happen in the movie. However, the movie expands on this idea by distorting other characters. The Hatter’s eyes are overly large and change color. The Red Queen’s head is disproportionately oversized for her body. Stayne, the Knave of Hearts, looks stretched and oddly tall. These distortions create a weird “wonderland” atmosphere and in the realm of this movie, the distortions of these characters are “real.” The members of the Red Queen’s court, however, have unreal or put upon distortions. They use prosthetics to change their appearance.





We talked about manipulating images in class and I can’t help but link that idea to the Alice movie and to life. What is it that makes these courtiers manipulate their self-image? While the courtiers do it in a very drastic sense, large noses, droopy ears, in a very basic sense we, as human beings, do this in life quite often. Makeup is the example that comes to my mind first. We use makeup as a method of altering self image in order to change how other people see us. In a sense, we have been manipulating images much longer than we have had photographic images to manipulate.


  1. Although I’ve never seen the most recent Alice in Wonderland movie, I have just seen the newest Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay. With that still fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help but think of the Capitol citizens in The Hunger Games’ fictional world of Panem when you mentioned the members of the Red Queen’s court. Just like the courtiers, the privileged Capitol citizens drastically manipulate their appearance so they appear almost unreal and bizarre. Whether or not the courtiers have the same reasons for their altered appearance, it is interesting that two groups of high status in their respective fictional universes are both presented with such dramatic changes.

    It is also interesting that the Capitol citizens not only appear strange looking to us, the viewers, but also to outsiders within the book and movie. They are seen as ridiculous and extravagant by those in the surrounding districts, an example of how where we live and the society immediately surrounding us impacts how we wish to appear. Similarly, the Red Queen’s court and other distorted characters would appear bizarre outside of Wonderland and back in Alice’s world.

    Even looking at real life, like you said, most of us are altering ourselves, whether it’s with makeup or our fashion choices, to appear a certain way. Most people want to fit in, so the influence of the people around us usually play a big role in exactly how we choose to alter ourselves.

  2. This idea about manipulating and perception makes me think of something (appropriately) called Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS), or Todd’s syndrome, “a neurological condition that distorts perception, causing disorientation and a warping of the senses,” according to the website How Stuff Works. Symptoms include hallucinations, uncontrolled sense of time, and warped self-image.

    While the courtiers appear to be changing themselves, maybe it’s Alice’s mind that could be fueling these changes–perhaps her own ideas or anxieties about the grotesque become expressed on these figures. On the contrary, maybe the odd-looking characters experience the same altered sense of self, in which their unusual and imagined self-images materialize and become “real” in a world that makes equally little sense.

    I’ll note that in this movie, Alice is among the only characters (or perhaps is really the only one) who look “natural,” and are without makeup, in Wonderland. I think that this helps separate her from her environment there, a place that she can’t logically belong to. Again, maybe it’s the workings of Alice’s mind that make these separations; establishing difference could be an underlying way to disassociate herself from any of the human (or human-like) characters in Wonderland.

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