In light of the sequel, "Alice Through the Looking Glass," recently debuting, I decided to re-watch the 2010 prequel "Alice in Wonderland" when I noticed something I hadn’t before. Maybe some of you have picked up on it as well while others may think my thoughts are unfounded. However you may perceive it, I feel there’s something truly beautiful about the movie that I felt compelled to share.
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The beauty I see in this movie is stems from director Tim Burton, his writers', as well as the producers’ ability to inadvertently shed light on multiple mental disorders, alluding them throughout the movie via main characters. Don’t believe me? Maybe dialogue that is used several times throughout the movie can attest to my theory:
“Have I gone mad?”
“I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers.
But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
However nowhere is it said that these were their intentions. My dissecting and diagnosing of fictional characters is not intended to offend anyone with said disorder. It is merely a theory that I believe those responsible for this movie have indirectly beautified mental illnesses and portrayed them in such lovely ways that the naked eye does not notice right away. It’s all truly beautiful once you view it in the same positive and analytical perspective I’ve stumbled upon.
Alice: Schizophrenia, Nightmare Disorder (Dream Anxiety Disorder), Psychosis
Alice is arguably in my opinion one of the most interesting characters portrayed. Rather than the confused child that wanders through a new, slightly mad unexplainable world in the 1951 cartoon film, Alice is described early on in the movie to stress concern over a reoccurring dream she had been having since she was young: a dream of her falling down the rabbit hole into a backwards, wonder of a world that she believed only existed in her imagination. This is an example of nightmare disorder, otherwise known as dream anxiety disorder.
Individuals suffering from DAD will have reoccurring nightmares or night terrors, portraying themselves in a situation that jeopardizes their life or personal safety, and usually occurs during the REM stages of sleep.
Animals that speak, a cat that smiles and evaporates into thin air, a hookah-smoking caterpillar, cake that makes you grow and a drink that can make you shrink; examples of Alice’s dreams until one day when she could not “wake herself up” and realizes it was more than a dream, and that these creatures were real. This is a sign of schizophrenia.Schizophrenia is defined as abnormal social behavior and failure to understand reality. Common symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, and hearing voices, all of which Alice exudes. Lack of social engagement is also a symptom, which can explain the inability for Alice to converse with her mother, Hamish, Hamish’s mother, etc. in the beginning of the movie. She is constantly misunderstood and chastised for her odd comments and thoughts. It is also common for individuals afflicted with schizophrenia to experience hallucinations and delusions, for example, believing you are living in a backwards world such as Wonderland. Overall, Alice exudes the symptoms of psychosis, which is caused by schizophrenia. Psychosis can be defined as an abnormality of the mind, which causes a “loss of reality.”
Mad Hatter: Bipolar disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
In my opinion, Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the Mad Hatter in this film was multidimensional and layered with expression in comparison to other depictions. Mad Hatter explains halfway through the film that the Red Queen attacked his village area during a party gathering and set fire to the houses and took over as a vicious leader from that day on. This sparks his angry flashbacks when Alice often urges him to snap out of the reoccurring haunting visions. In these instances, you can associate these flashbacks with PTSD.
Individuals with PTSD have overcome a traumatic occurrence, such as a victim of war or rape. PTSD is basically a neurological reminder in the brain, giving the individual reoccurring nightmares (or even throughout their day) of the same or similar instances, random bursts of anger, heart palpitations, etc.The Mad Hatter is depicted in this version of Alice in Wonderland with bipolar disorder tendencies. The Hatter is often gloomy and depressed over the way “Underland” is due to the Red Queen’s reign. In some occasions, however, the Hatter seems to be going through manic episodes, both happy and blabbering, jumping from topic to topic talking a mile a minute. This is where the Hatter displays symptoms of bipolar disorder, also defined as a manic depressive disorder. Mixed episodes often occur for someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder resulting in mood swings and difficulties with impulse control, which can explain the Hatter’s bursts of anger and confusion.
Absolem the caterpillar: Possible Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD), Grandiose delusions
I use the word “possible” in analyzing Absolem because of the notorious argument that Alice in Wonderland is about drug usage. In every version of Alice in Wonderland that I can recall, the caterpillar is always smoking. There have been arguments as to what exactly he is smoking. Some believe it to be cannabis, although deemed unpopular of the time period when Lewis Carroll wrote these pieces, or opium due to Carroll’s own rumored personal usage of the drug. If, in fact, the caterpillar is smoking something a little too strong, one could argue that he could be suffering from HPPD, considering his constant questioning of what is currently happening. HPPD is unlikely but not impossible, yet grandiose delusions fits best for the witty caterpillar.
GD is a good fit due to Absolem’s belief that he is a prophet of Wonderland, and the fact that he solely speaks in riddles. Alice can never quite make out what he says, or rather, what he means. A common symptom of GD is the belief of omnipotence and egoism: an exaggerated belief of self-worth, something the caterpillar definitely exudes.
The Red Queen: Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD)
Although technically we are not rooting for the Red Queen throughout the movie, she is definitely one of the most comedic, interesting love-to-hate character. Angry that she was not the favored daughter by her parents due to her quick ill temper and obscenely massive head, the Red Queen takes over “Wonderland” and turns it upside down into a depressing world, dubbed “Underland” in which all characters are miserable due to her cruelty.
The queen’s “large head” ties in with NPD. Often times if one is considered self-absorbed, they are said to have a “big head”. The definition of NPD is a personality disorder characterized by “exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others”. Often times this disorder is associated with both arrogance and egotism, but also jealousy. The Red Queen constantly wonders why the people of Wonderland choose to adore the White Queen, her sister, over her, much like her parents did years ago. Nevertheless, the Red Queen thinks very highly of herself, pampering herself with all the very best and nothing less.
PPD also comes into play with the Red Queen as evident by her everlasting paranoia and suspicion that someone is out to get her. “Off with their head” is the most common phrase used by the queen in this movie, threatening to persecute anyone who defies her, even in small instances, such as the frog servant who stole a piece of food when starved. The queen has a “generalized mistrust” for others, convinced someone in her radius will defy her in someway.
The White Queen: Perfectionism
There’s no doubt that the White Queen is everyone’s favorite of the queens, due to her daintiness and tranquility within her reign prior to her evil sister taking over Wonderland. The queen, however, seems to be suffering from Perfectionism. The White Queen cannot participate in the Frapjous’ Day due to her vow of never harming a creature, however, it is mentioned that she has the desire to on multiple occasion. She also grows tired of being dainty and tranquil, and actually breaks “character”, when the hound reaches her castle to give her news of the Red Queen. It can be argued that the White Queen has a diagnosis of Perfectionism.
Perfectionism is defined as a disorder in which the person's “striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others' evaluations”. This is consistent with the White Queen’s dedication to being the queen everyone in Wonderland desires; in their eyes she must be the complete opposite of her evil sister.
The White Rabbit: Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The White Rabbit is one of the most iconic characters and is affiliated with Alice in Wonderland, in each depiction. Hopping speedily away, he is first introduced to Alice before she falls down the hole into Wonderland. Carrying his clock, pointing hastily with worry in his eyes, the white rabbit draws Alice in because he believes she is the one to defeat the Red Queen.
A lot of people suffer with anxiety, so this “diagnosis” could be considered easy to detect. GAD can cause twitching, restlessness, insomnia, and agitation to name just few of the many symptoms, all of which the white rabbit exude. Nervous that he has brought the wrong Alice to Wonderland and that the Red Queen will prevail, the white rabbit is especially anxious.
The March Hare: Tourette’s Disorder, Tic Disorder
The March Hare, although quite creepy at first glimpse, is actually one of the most popular characters for younger kids who have seen this film; his gibberish language and sudden movements register in children’s mind as playful.
The March Hare, however, seems to be suffering with Tourette’s disorder or tic disorder. Both Tourette’s and tic disorder are disorders that cause the afflicted to have severe “tics” or involuntary movements and/or Coprolalia (sudden blurting of words). This is why the Hare constantly throws utensils at the tea party and blurts nonsense.
Tweedledee and Tweedledum: Shared Psychotic Disorder, ADD
The twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum share sentences, movements, and even thoughts. Constantly finishing each other’s sentences, you’d believe it is a sort of “twin telepathy”. However, this can be explained by shared psychotic disorder, or folie à deux, translated from French as “madness of two”. SPD is defined as “a psychiatric syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief and hallucinations are transmitted from one individual to another”.
It can also be argued that the twins suffer from ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Considering they can never have a thought to themselves, and often find it hard to concentrate on one thought, ADHD suits them. They jump from thought to thought and find it hard to focus, which is a common occurrence from those diagnosed with ADHD. They fidget and squirm and sometimes blurt out inappropriate comments, which is what Alice was trying to avoid when they noticed her in the Red Queen’s castle posing as Um from Umbridge.
The Dormouse: Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)
This little character you can’t help but adore with her outrageous spunkiness and more-than-often short temper. On multiple occasions, Mallymkun draws her sword angrily at Alice and other characters whenever confronted. For instance, when Alice asks for the Bandersnatch’s eye back to help retrieve the Vorpal Sword, instead of complying, Mallymkun draws her sword and shouts.
Everyone gets angry, however being angry does not mean you have IED. IED, or Intermittent Explosive Disorder, is a behavioral disorder in which the individual experience explosive fits of rage, anger, and violence for unidentified reasons, sometimes for no reason at all. Hard to diagnose, IED can be confused with other mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, or just regular everyday anger.
Again, I am no doctor. I am not qualified to diagnose anyone with mental disorders, and I cannot suggest that this somewhat of a conspiracy theory is actually real. These observations are simply my analytical dissection of a movie I deem beautiful. In my eyes, it is an ode to mental and behavioral illnesses, depicting them with a certain loveliness. The mind is beautiful, no matter what complications.