Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland: A Journey of Symbolism

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I admit, I did not grow up with a fondness for Lewis Carol’s books. They were interesting but largely nonsensical, a random sequence of events thrown together for the amusement of children. But I have a weakness for Tim Burton, so I approached the film with interest, knowing he would put his own particular creative stamp on it. Many people hate this movie, and I can see why, but I like it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being the question of, “Was it all a dream?”

We assume that it wasn’t, that Underland is a real place, that Alice is quite “sane,” and that all of these events truly happened to her; but the fact that so many of them symbolically parallel aspects of real life and explore her psyche suggest that it’s not unreasonable to consider the fact that Underland and her adventures there are her mind trying to deal with difficult questions in reality, as a form of escapism. It is not insanity, but Alice reasoning things out in her imagination.

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Alice, like many Tim Burton characters, is at a crossroads in her life; she stands between adolescence and adulthood and must choose one. The prospect of marriage, because it is the sensible thing to do and what is “done” (“everyone expects it,” she says halfheartedly), looms before her… a bit like a Jabberw0ky that must be slain in order for her to find what she truly wants. Her tyrannical potential mother in law bears more than a passing resemblance to the psychotic Red Queen, in terms of her general dislike for anything being out of order or control, not how she likes it, and distaste for innocent life (“I hate rabbits,” she says; “I like setting the dogs on them”). It is a bit like OFF WITH THEIR HEADS, is it not?

The absurd and rather stupid twin boys that turn up in Underland reflect Alice’s contempt for a pair of giggling, silly, slightly malicious twin girls in reality. The sense of urgency throughout her Underland adventure, as a certain day whose events are foretold looms before her with everyone’s expectations resting on her shoulders, is a reminder that “time is running out” for her to be a child, and that the day everyone expects is soon to arrive… the day she grows up, gets married, and fulfills their expectations. Alice is in an emotional crisis, uncertain of who she is and what she wants. She is cowed at first around all of these people, who dismiss her whimsical, imaginative nature as being preoccupied with nonsense, when all she does is be amused at others’ antics and think about what it might be like to fly. She has, as the Hatter puts it, “lost her muchness.”

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But what IS her “Muchness”? It is Alice. Her sense of self. Her knowledge of what she wants. Her proving to herself through slaying the Jabberw0ky that she is strong and capable enough to turn her back on what is “expected” of her, and become the person she wants to be… to partner in her father’s business, to carry his vision on and even expand on it, to make her own decisions and be her own person. Absolem, the caterpillar, stitches himself neatly into a cocoon toward the end of the story while telling her to, in a sense, grow up and face her responsibilities; what follows, in the fight to the death with the Jabberw0ky, is Alice breaking out of her cocoon, out of a period of intense introspection, self-analysis, and doubt, to stretch her proverbial wings and finally claim for herself what she wants most: the freedom to be herself, to be an adult but still hold to her powerful imagination and sense of wonder. Absolem, now a blue butterfly, turns up at the end, to fly ahead of her into the unknown as she embarks on a much greater adventure – life, to symbolize that Alice is now a butterfly.

The film is full of delightful Tim Burton signatures (curly trees, absurd situations, and all) and has his usual whimsical charm, but superficial as it may seem at first glance, a story more style than substance, it’s actually a journey of self-discovery, full of metaphors about the human existence and the transition from childhood into adulthood. And perhaps that is why I like it, because underneath the seriousness with which I view life, there’s a hint of Alice in me too.

Murder Rooms Blog Party

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Murder Rooms Blog Party: Oct 26th-Nov 1st

I’m co-hosting this with The Dark Beginnings.

We’re inviting any Murder Room fans to join us for reviews of the books, episodic reviews, collective thoughts on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Joseph Bell, and so on.

If you have never heard of it, this will be a great introduction for you to a tragically short-lived but brilliant BBC murder mystery series. It follows the fictional antics of Doyle in his real-life friendship with Dr. Bell, who inspired the character of Sherlock Holmes. The mysteries are creative, blending familiar elements from Doyle’s short stories into unusual settings, with a sense of humor, irony, and depth that is rare in detective stories.

We invite you to participate (please do!) in whatever way strikes your fancy, to spread the word if you can, and to follow our posts.

If you intend to participate, please let me know so that I can track down and share your blog post on tumblr when it goes live.

Here’s a button if you wish to share / participate.

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Femnista Sept / Oct 2014

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Our latest issue is out! This once centers around stories that have not received critical acclaim necessarily, but that have intrigued their readers or viewers, who feel they deserve more recognition. Our task this month was to rekindle an interest in something you may have forgotten, or to help you discover a new favorite.

You can read the issue online or download it here. As always, past issues are available on my website.

Included in this issue are: The Making of a Lady, The Wild Wild West, My Brilliant Career, The Pink Carnation, Lorna Doone, The Sinking of the Laconia, The Painted Veil, The Longest Journey, Eugene Onegin, North & South, Rosencrantz and Gilderstern are Dead, Combat, John Carter, A Tree With Deep Roots, and Emily of New Moon.

As always, we welcome new writers into future issues. Our Halloween theme is “Monsters & Madness” and we still have a few open spots; for December, we have “A Family Affair,” centering on families in fiction. If interested, you can check out the current back cover for some ideas or consult the list of topics that are already taken. Or, of course, you can think up your own topic!

Enjoy! Please, if you like our publication, share it with your friends.

Action, Experiences & Fun: the SP Types

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SPs love new and exciting experiences. They like to try out new things, usually have expensive taste, and don’t like sitting around at home. They prefer to be out in the world, doing things. They like a hands-on approach, pay a lot of attention to their environment, are good at seizing any new opportunity, and have a natural knack for and pull toward artistic and athletic hobbies. Continue reading

A Dose of Alfred Hitchcock: Doctor Who’s Listen

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So far, I haven’t really liked this season of Doctor Who. The plots have been interesting, but I haven’t “felt” Capaldi in the part until now. Thank God, he finally convinced me in Listen that he can be a good Doctor if given room to breathe. After the second week’s interesting travel inside a dalek (frankly, I’m bored to death with daleks, but that was a unique take and I loved the concept), and the total stupidity of the Robin Hood episode (although funny, it was too high camp for my taste), I was teetering on the edge of “ehh… and I used to love this show,” but Listen redeemed it for me. This is the first episode in a long time that has delighted me from start to finish, most likely because it’s both a character-driven piece and it deals in non-absolutes.

Honestly, I’m not sure where to start, so I’ll plunge in and let it sort itself out. Continue reading

Ideas, Dreams & Possibilities: Understanding the NP Types

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NPs are imaginative, enthusiastic people who often take an interest in many different things, and have many hobbies over the course of their lifetime. They dislike routine and tedious tasks and let their creativity guide them through life. Others see them as spontaneous, imaginative, and enthusiastic about new ideas, for it is their yearning to learn and experience new thoughts that drives them onward.

These traits are the result of their extroverted intuition cognitive function (Ne). This function continually seeks new ideas, so that it can create a larger worldview, build connections between unrelated things, and come up with even more ideas. It is observant of its environment, and draws meaning from everything it sees, which gives NPs a unique ability to discern the true motives of the people around them. Ne craves greater knowledge and to experience many things; it is somewhat reluctant to make a firm decision on anything, out of the belief that it is important to stay open to new possibilities. Ne sees opportunities and likes to seize them. Continue reading

Movies I Love: Dracula (1979)

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Last night, as I watched this film for the first time in HD (but not for the first time!), I pondered what to say about it. I have interesting reminiscences about my discovery of it, funny anecdotes about introducing others to it, and an obscene amount of knowledge about the filming process, stage production that preceded it, and the novel on which it is “loosely” based (more so on the theatrical play Bela Lugosi performed on stage). I could poke fun at its dated qualities or humorously exploit its rational flaws, but in the end I decided to do what I do best: unravel the tapestry in an attempt to conceptualize what I love most about it, beyond the superficiality of an attractive man in the lead.

It’s not a film easily classified, because it has elements of many different genres in it; it is a romance, a tragedy, a drama, and a horror story, with moments of subtle humor offset by an eerie setting. It is both clichéd and ahead of its time, for its approach in using Dracula as a romantic figure predated most of the “tragic vampires” we’re now familiar with; yet underneath the elegance, Langella maintains a cold ruthlessness that is as exquisite as it is horrific. Continue reading