Sure, there’s a hookah-smoking caterpillar and a rabbit in a waistcoat, but that doesn’t mean that the amazing journey of a 19-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) into “Underland” isn’t chocked full of wise life lessons worth practicing in the real world. Here are three worth paying attention to:
1. Be True to Yourself: When Alice is at a Victorian garden party, she sees a vested rabbit hop through the flower beds — but no one else does. “Did you see that?” she asks a number of fellow guests, none of whom shares her vision. The lesson? Trust your own eyes — even if they’re seeing white rabbits, mad hatters and violent red queens. When Alice follows the rushing rabbit down a hole, she embarks on a magical journey of self-discovery that’s unique to her. Lives are like snowflakes: No two are alike.
2. The Pressure to Conform to Social Conventions Is Intense: Resist! In the movie, an eligible, wealthy but disagreeable nobleman proposes to Alice in front of family and friends. The expectation for Alice to marry the unsuitable twit is high, compounded by the fact that the young pair are surrounded by a society that expects her to say yes. While most teens aren’t forced into marriage, the constant barrage by TV and music and peers to get tattoos, piercings and wear risqué clothing without fully understanding the message this behavior sends to the society at large offers another flavor of dangerous conformity.
3. Sometimes a Good Person Has to Take a Stand and Fight for What’s Right: From the moment Alice arrives in Underland, the locals, including the Mad Hatter (played by a trippy Johnny Depp), expect her to be their champion in the fight against the repressive Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). What’s not to hate about a royal whose favorite phrase is “Off with his head?” But Alice is initially convinced this is not her battle, or her world, and she doesn’t see herself as a warrior. But, ultimately, she discovers her inner-champion; that part of her being that when confronted by injustice must fight for right, even if that means risking her neck or slaying a dragon of a Jabberwocky with a Vorpal sword.
Go ask Alice when she’s ten feet tall, or just small. There’s a lot of common sense to this Lewis Carroll nonsense after all.