Sunday, November 20, 2011

#13: Dream On

Alice in Wonderland, 1951
watched November 14, 2011
"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn't be, and what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"
Although I think Alice in Wonderland is one of the weirdest movies in the Disney canon, I was very intrigued by this quote from the opening scene. As a young girl with a wild imagination, Alice is dissatisfied and bored with her life. She longs for adventure and escape: "Cats and rabbits / Would reside in fancy little houses / And be dressed in shoes and hats and trousers / In a world of my own..."

So what happens when Alice gets to dream up her own world? At first, it's merely 'curious': fun, intriguing, and seemingly harmless. As the audience discovers the world along with Alice, every character and place is unique while also somehow familiar, as if we ourselves once dreamt about bread-and-butterflies, umbrella vultures or mushrooms that make us grow bigger or smaller. I can see why Disney would be inspired by Lewis Carroll's book; it's full of whimsical and crazy creatures that lend themselves perfectly to animation.

But as the story progresses, each character Alice interacts with appears 'curiouser and curiouser,' revealing themselves to be not just mad (as in crazy) but creepy and disturbing. The Cheshire cat's floating grin was especially haunting when I was a kid. Slowly, Alice learns that this world of nonsense is not her cup of tea (haha, get it?), and she is eager to find her way home.

And who can't relate to Alice? The message today is so often, "Do what makes you happy. Do what you think is best."  The world encourages a very self-focused way of life. Especially in this postmodern culture, the thought of abiding to another's rules seems offensive. Like Alice, doing what we want seems much more appealing. But when we're actually given over to our own impulses, we end up with a chaotic world that makes no sense... where bad things happen to good people. Where sickness and death pervade. Where life is full of disappointment. The things that should be aren't, and what it is, shouldn't be.

I learn from Alice's Wonderland that a world made up with my own rules is not a wonderland at all. It's crazy and disturbing and all wrong. I need to leave the world-running to Someone Else who knows a lot more about how it should be done.

Fortunately for Alice, it was all a dream, and she was able to wake up to a reality where things made sense again. The question for us is, are we awake, or are we still dreaming?