During the hype surrounding the 2010 Tim Burton film adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, many companies seized the opportunity to re-package already existing products or to release limited edition Alice in Wonderland themed items. I’d like to focus on 3 such endeavors–all by makeup companies targeting young to middle aged women. OPI, Urban Decay, and Paul & Joe all used the iconic Alice image in order to sell their products.
According to this quote from a WWD article on the Alice themed makeup: “Everybody wants to be somebody. If they like an actor or actress, they can associate a nail lacquer with their character, and it gets them closer,” Suzi Weiss-Fleischmann, OPI executive vice president and creative director said. “These collaborations draw the consumer more and more to a movie and a [nail lacquer] color.”
While the use of a popular trend or fad to appeal to large fan bases is nothing new in the world of marketing, what interests me is why these makeup companies decided to use the image of a little girl from a children’s story to sell beauty products (associated with sexuality) to adult women. If we take the aforementioned quote at face value–I’d like to ask what do modern women see (or read) in Alice that makes them want to be closer to the character? What does Alice embody that makes women connect with her and want to buy products stamped with her image?
Is it a nostalgia for childhood? Is it because consumers are simply huge fans of Alice in Wonderland? Perhaps it’s the cutesy, vintage-y aesthetic? Maybe women just want to attain that innocent, doe-eyed childish look?
As much as I love Alice in Wonderland and the many permutations her image has taken since John Tenniel’s illustrations and the Disney animation that made her an icon, at a second glance these products make me vaguely uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s because they remind me of Lewis Carroll’s photographs of the young girls he had relationships with. These pictures have been perceived as Lolita-esque, making some viewers uncomfortable about the voyeuristic, possibly inappropriate, possibly sexually predatory situation that may have occurred during the creation of the photos. Carol Mavor’s analysis of sexuality in Victorian photographs in her book, Pleasures Taken, has made me wary of what at first seem to be innocent pictures. (Below is Alice Liddell posed as a beggar girl, shot by Lewis Carroll)
Perhaps I’m reading too far into the packaging on these beauty products. It should be keep in mind that the targeted audience is undeniably different and very far removed from the original Victorian recipients of the Alice in Wonderland story. After all, Tim Burton’s adaptation is based on fanfiction about a much older Alice, which greatly changes the dynamics of the narrative.