Anybody else watching Once Upon a Time in Wonderland? As the show returns for the second half of its season, I'm starting to get disappointed. It had a good start, but now I feel like it's outlasting its potential--and like it doesn't have much of anything to do with the themes and such of Alice in Wonderland, anyway.
But isn't that how it usually is with Alice in Wonderland-inspired pieces? There are plenty of movies based directly on the book, then there are others that take greater liberties with the story. And then there are the movies that take away only a very vague inspiration. Something like Phoebe in Wonderland, for instance. And there are even more that take only something from the title. Hold onto that thought.
Back when I was in English 200, my professor explained the widespread influence of Frankenstein. I forget the wording she used, but she basically said that it's the most referenced book or the book that exists most in society's collective consciousness. Everybody's heard of Frankenstein, even if they don't know that he's the doctor and not the monster--though it seems to be usual these days for Frankenstein references to explain that difference. Whether it's a passing line, a costume, or some sort of adaptation, Frankenstein has had an influence. The wonderful questions about humanity, medicine, and the creation of life that exist within the book may not always be remembered, but the book still is in some form.
And isn't that how it's becoming with Alice in Wonderland? I think it's safe to say that the average person hasn't read Frankenstein (for the average college student, the percentage is probably different). I think perhaps a few more people have read at least parts of Alice in Wonderland, or adapted bits, or something. Maybe. I know I didn't read either book until college. But I think people are still more likely to be familiar with Alice from the old Disney animated version, or maybe another movie they grew up with, than because of the book itself. And yet there is something compelling in both Alice in Wonderland and Frankenstein that leads us to continue thinking about them and referencing them.
They're both books creating their own mythology. Frankenstein, as representative of an out of control monster. Alice in Wonderland, as representative of a world where everything has been turned on its head. The details may sometimes be forgotten, but the basic sense of each story continues on and on in form after form. And that's how stories live forever.