Gender Roles – Women
Gender Roles – Men
Room for Improvement:
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 4 Stars
Alice in an engaging character from the ouset, who doesn't tolerate corsets and stockings simply because society has deemed it "proper" for her to do so. She doesn't have any pre-determined plans or ambitions, but she has a vivid imagination that clearly takes her beyond the simple fantasy of marriage. She isn't afraid to be herself, despite the social limitations that are placed on her. And she holds fast to her dreams, rather than bowing to everyone else's expectations. In the end, she realizes that a marriage proposal from a wealthy lord is not her last best offer in life, and finds a way to chart her own course, following in her father's footsteps.
Gender Roles - Men: 5 Stars
The Mad Hatter is a truly unique character who compliments Alice perfectly. He supports her when the others doubt her, and challenges her to step up and do what she’s meant to do. He also plays his own heroic role, allowing himself to be taken prisoner and then outsmarting the Red Queen as she’s about to have him executed. The Hatter is slightly mad, as always, but still expresses doubts and fears like a fully fleshed out human being. We can easily connect with him despite his wild appearance, and absolutely prefer him to the undeserving Hamish, who would only try to stifle Alice’s inspiring “muchness.”
Plot: 4 Stars
Alice is not only cast as Wonderland’s champion and savior, but she also learns to recognize and use her talents in the real world. Alice in Wonderland is one of the few fairy tale films to address the fact that women of this era had few prospects in life beyond marriage, and that marriage was more a matter of financial security than love. As Margaret Kingsleigh is trying to persuade Alice to accept Hamish’s marriage proposal, she warns her about becoming a burden on their mother, or ending up like poor Aunt Imogene. In this way, Alice in Wonderland directly addresses the harsh realities that might drive even a spirited woman like Alice to marry someone she doesn’t love. To the film’s credit, this reality is not ignored when Alice returns from Wonderland. She not only turns down Hamish’s proposal but makes an aggressive business pitch to Lord Ascot, earning her an opportunity to earn a piece of the profits from her father’s business and secure the freedom to continue living her dreams.
Character Development: 4 Stars
The Alice at the beginning of the film is a bit milder character than the Alice that emerges at the end. She is unhappy with the engagement party that’s been arranged for her, but she entertains the idea of accepting Hamish’s proposal. We’re given the impression that Alice has lost some of her spark since her father died, as she no longer has an advocate that will let her decide her own future.
When Alice disappears down the rabbit hole, she is originally wary of the twisted fate that’s landed in her lap. She has no intention of facing the Jabberwocky, despite the legend of Frabjous Day. She begins to awaken when the Hatter tells her that she’s lost her “muchness,” just before he’s taken prisoner by the Red Queen’s men. Alice immediately sets out to rescue him, regaining her confidence and her drive until she becomes “the" Alice that Wonderland has been waiting for. By the end of the film, Alice not only finds the strength to slay the Jabberwocky, but also to decline Hamish’s unwanted marriage proposal and to carve out a role for herself in her father’s company.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 2 Stars
Most of the women in Alice in Wonderland are slim and attractive, from Alice herself, to her lovely sister Margaret, to the elegant Lady Ascot, to the whimsical White Queen. The only two women that don’t fit this mold are the unfortunate Aunt Imogene and the Red Queen. Coincidentally, both women come across as pitiable, deranged and unloved. The fact that the Red Queen surrounds herself with courtiers with similar defects, and that the other characters make fun of her large head, only highlights this imbalance. The suggestion, intentional or not, is that beauty breeds more beauty, and that ugliness engenders the same.
Family: 2 Stars
Alice in Wonderland includes an empowering relationship between a father and daughter which unfortunately, doesn’t last long. It’s clear where Alice gets her vision and her inspiration, and that her father encouraged rather than stifled her insatiable curiosity. Unfortunately the women in Alice’s family, her mother and her sister, are practical, traditional women. They encourage her to enter into a marriage that will bring her no happiness simply because her options are limited. And because they’ve failed to recognize that Alice’s remarkable passion and drive can be as valuable a trait in a woman as it is in a man.