Posted by: Joyce Linnet | December 20, 2015

Picturing Alice

Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a character that has been represented many times throughout both film and literature. Thanks to the Disney adaptation that, like most Disney adaptations, was fairly unfaithful to its source material, she is often pictured as a long haired blonde girl. That is very much to the contrary of any photographic evidence (of which there is a great deal, possibly due to the fact that Lewis Carroll was very much interested in photographing her, a fact that can be interpreted however you’d like). I have always felt a bit annoyed at Alice’s constant blondeness, especially after I found out that Alice Liddell, who the character was based on was not a blonde. The real reason that Alice is blonde in the incorrectly named Disney animated film is because her live-action character model and voice actor, the then 10-year old Kathryn Beaumont looked something like this:

Kathryn_Alice

The classic John Tenniel illustration probably did not do much to help and so we go from an Alice that, according to photographs taken of her, looked like a short-haired brunette girl who looked something like this:

DP209284.jpg

To an Alice that was interpreted by an illustrator in the published novel that the author of the book absolute hated, as appearing to look something like this:

tenniel alice

And further and further on until we lose our source material and Carroll’s inspiration and have unleashed upon the world an Alice that barely looks like Alice at all. The Alice that has been seen in so many film versions takes after the blonde haired Alice of Disney film fame. Even the more recent Tim Burton films have stuck to the portrayal of Alice as a blonde haired girl, played in the live-action film by Mia Wasikowska:

mia alice

Instead of looking like this: alice_cameron

In fact, it there is very little in modern interpretations of Alice that show that she was ever a real person at all as almost all traces of the little girl who Lewis Carroll wrote the stories for have almost all but been erased as the story of Alice is told and retold over and over again.


Responses

  1. This is a very interesting post that made me think about the accuracy of representation. The questions of whether or not Lewis Carroll had a person in mind when writing the adventures of Alice seems indisputable. The issue is whether or not the faithfulness of the representation is important or even necessary.

    There is the idea is that Alice is a sort of “every-girl” that is meant to represent the idea of childhood. As a symbol of every childhood, it seems wrong for her to be a blonde because, being a recessive gene, it is less likely for children to be blonde than it is for them to be brunette. It would seem like a more “every” characteristic for Alice to be brunette,

    However! The idea of Alice as an idealized version of childhood is also an important part of her representation. Being idealized, it seems like the blonde hair makes more sense. Consider imagery of angelic children and how blonde hair helps to give the look a more innocent bent. If Carroll’s idea was to represent childhood as an idealistic stage of life to be held on to for as long as possible, the blonde hair seems to fit the best.


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