Miscellaneous Alice > Visions and revisions

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Visions and revisions

Postby Tweedledammed » Tue Nov 02, 2004 11:37 am

There's been much talk recently about the "commercialisation" of Alice, merchandising, re-interpretations of the books into something they're not (American McGee's version, Gwen Stefan's single and so on) and to my mind it's all rather missing the point.

Take the first argument - Alice can't be commercialised because it's already commercial. It's a book. It's one of the most popular children's books of all time. To object to the commercialisation of a product (for realistically it is a product) that is already commercial seems a rather odd stance to say the least.

As for objecting to re-interpretations well that too seems a strange thing to do.
Take Macbeth for example. Shakespeare's Macbeth is a fine (if rather gloomy) tale of murder, mayhem, royalty and the supernatural.
Verdi adapted it into a fine (if for my taste slightly bombastic) opera.
The 1955 film Joe Macbeth adapted it into a film-noirish gangster idiom.
There is a BBC schools version that uses the original text (more or less) and sets it in a post apocalyptic world complete with tanks and lots of moody characters wandering around in matrix style leather overcoats.

Are all these versions equally good? Well I suppose that depends on your taste. Are they all equally worthy and valid projects? No doubt about it.

The same is true of the dozens of versions of Alice. Every version, whether from the "commercial" studios of Disney or the morbid imagination of Svankmejer, whether the (definitely) drug fueled White Rabbit of Jeferson Airplane or Gwen Stefani's single (which I haven't heard and can't comment on) is stamped indelibly with the mark of its creator(s) and every version is in its own way as valid as every other version.

Do I like every version I've ever seen or heard? No, I don't? Do I think everyone should like the same versions that I like? Again, no. Do I think that the more versions there are the better? Yes, I do. Do I think that every version has its place and its own merits? Yes, again.

Choose the ones you like and enjoy them, and appreciate the others simply for their existance.

~Dream Like Alice~

Postby ~Dream Like Alice~ » Tue Nov 02, 2004 11:37 am

You make a very valid point..and a great way of looking at it from a different view, but theres a difference between makign another version for their artist reasons and for a persons personal gain...
Im not sure if i agree with the idea of the more versions the better.

Theres a fine line between a new made alice thats exciting and different and a new made alice that takes away from merit of the book (i.e disney's alice largely responsible for the drug references)...

thats my 2 cents..


Postby Lovelyluna » Tue Nov 02, 2004 11:38 am

I think you both make really good points. I mean, I would be very sad if there were no alice in wonderland chess sets or purses or stuffed toys.

But I think that there can be a big difference between reinterpretations of the books and corruption the story for selfish reasons.
For example, I was watching the Nightmare Before Christmas today, because i was thinking about it when i made that post and also because today is Halloween. Anyway American McGee's Alice and Gwen Stefani's video reminded me of how Jack tries to own Christmas and sell it to the rest of the people in Halloween Town. He corrupts it when he tries to make Christmas in the spirit of Halloween.
When people take Alice and turn it into what they and others want it to be, that is not being true to the spirit of the books. Gwen Stefani's video isn't about Alice at all, it's about what she wants it to be just so consumers will think she's cool or something. And by making it her own she ruined what people love about the books in the first place. I think the same goes for just about every one of those Alice things that are not in the spirit of the books for any reason, whether it's commercial, or artistic, or anything. I mean, these people should have respect for what they are using as an inspiration, shouldn't they? I'm sorry if I have been rambling, I was just thinking about this a lot today.


Postby Kirkinson » Tue Nov 02, 2004 11:39 am

I don't think anyone can really say an artist is "corrupting" the books by going against their spirit because everyone sees art in different ways. All art is subjective, whether we're talking about what Gwen Stefani sees in the books or about what Alice fans see in Gwen Stefani.

Herman Melville was constantly asked what the whale symbolized in Moby Dick. Melville would always turn it around and say, "What do YOU think the whale symbolizes?" "I think it's a symbol of pride and how it can lead to man's downfall," would be one response. "I think it's a symbol of greed," would be another. Everyone would have their own idea of what the whale was. Melville's answer was that the whale symbolized all of those things. If that was what the reader saw in the story and it worked for them, then that was what Moby Dick was all about. It's not what the author had in mind that was important, but what the reader gets out of it that really counts.

Some people find the Alice books very frightening. I don't get that. Maybe it's because I didn't read them until I was a teenager. But then, when I read them to my little sister (then 7 years old) she wasn't the least bit frightened, either. Personally, I think Through the Looking-Glass (my favorite of the two books) has a very heavy weight of sadness on its shoulders and I see themes of abandonment and loneliness throughout its pages. Some people don't get that. In any case, I very much doubt that Dodgson meant for the second book to be sad or for either book to be scary, but I don't think that invalidates either of those reactions. Indeed, I would take it two steps further and suggest that the Alice books are great works of art precisely BECAUSE they can be interpreted in so many different ways.

So does that mean I approve of the Gwen Stefani video? Well, I haven't seen it, so I can't say. Despite Tweedle####ed's reasonable and compelling arguments, I do think there is a difference between working to sell a product and working to make some sort of personal artistic statement - they are not mutually exclusive, but neither are they mutually congruent. And sometimes it can be difficult to read such intentions. Take for example the Alice films currently in preproduction at Dreamworks. Supposedly the idea came about when a writer, Les Bohem, pitched it to Steven Spielberg. So now we can wonder, did Bohem's pitch go like this: "Steve, I really think we should make these films. With special effects nowadays we could really do something special. You gotta let me work on these scripts, it'd be dream come true for me." Or was it something more like this: "Steve, think about it, with special effects nowadays we could blow the Disney version out of the water. Get Dakota Fanning to star and put some choice CGI shots in the trailer and we're guaranteed $100 million." There's a huge difference there, and it's important to note that such intentions have no essential bearing on quality. Truffaut said " Our most sincere film can seem phoney," and if Bohem is a lousey writer (he is responsible for Dante's Peak) then it won't matter how big a fan of the books he may be. Conversely, a bunch of skilled laborers with no special connection to the material and a sole interest in cashing their paychecks could very well make a great Alice film almost by accident. Virtually all of the "classics" were made this way; there were very few "personal" projects in Hollywood's "Golden Age." No one on Casablanca had any idea that what they were doing was going to have such an impact on film history, that's just the way it turned out.

Still, I find myself unable to fully agree with the "more versions the merrier" mentality. I keep thinking about the mercifully abandoned Alice musical MTV was going to produce starring Britney Spears. I can't find anyway to view that project's hypothetical existence as any sort of advantage.

But maybe I'm just a snob. I can't help it. None of us can. We all love Alice, and we all want to protect her...in our own ways.



Postby sonflour » Tue Nov 02, 2004 11:39 am

I get that art is subjective and that we should accept it all even if we don't like it. I even really like the different illustrations you can find for alice, but there are some issues with alice in particular. Charles was very picky about his illustrations and wording before he would publish. He sent quite a few of Tenniel's drawings back to be redone because they didn't have the right head tilt or the rabbit was looking in the wrong direction. After he wrote the looking glass he had a terrible time talking Tenniel into illustrating that one, and wasn't going to publish it without his art.

All this to say, have we forgotten how careful Carroll was? The books are so precise to what Dodgeson had invisioned... how fair is it to let just anyone take what they remember from the disney version (which i think is so far off...) and just right a new one. On some level I think we should remember what spirit of this particular work is.

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Postby Alice's Requiem » Tue Nov 02, 2004 3:27 pm

I'm not sure what i'm thinking at the minute about Gwen Stephani's new video. The concept is a good idea (obviously being alice) and yet the song really doesnt have much relevance to Alice other than time being involved "What you waiting for". I'm not keen on the clothing (apart from tweedle dum & tweedle dee's dresses which are quite cool) but then again it's each to their own. Everybody sees things differently to everyone else.

I don't agree with mass production of commercial products, but then again where would i be without my Alice toys and game.

I personally really like American McGee's Alice as a stereotypical yet different interpretation of Alice, and i am looking forward to seeing American McGee's Oz which is currently in production.

At the end of the day, everyone has a different view, and lots of people read Alice and saw different messages to everyone else, and some just saw it as a fairy tale. Who's to say whats right and wrong?

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Postby Tokin' Mock Turtle » Wed Nov 17, 2004 2:44 am

I agree with “everybody interprets the book differentlyâ€￾ so who knows maybe Dodgson just wrote about a girl falling into a rabbit hole and meeting different characters? Or maybe each character symbolized something? You think Dodgson would be pissed off at so many different versions of Alice In Wonderland whether they’ve been altered and what not. I mean the guy denied the pseudonym Lewis Carroll and writing the book. So how much pride do you think he had while he wrote the novel?

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Visions & Revisions

Postby thefamilycat » Sat Jan 08, 2005 3:46 pm

Actually Dakota Fanning had an Alice link years ago and Jeff Bohem is the son of an Alice author and collector (now deceased).
It sounds as if it could be as great as the one Natalie Gregory starred in

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