Curiouser and Curiouser

Alice seems to be everywhere in recent movies and videogames. The themes of her adventures in Wonderland resonate still. Several popular recent videogames have referenced Carrol’s classic work. Many of the references, direct or indirect, include puzzles and other in-game interactions.

Bioshock, a game which this class will begin playing shortly, has a character who is obsessed with Alice’s world. (WARNING POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!) Orrin Oscar Lutwidge, a character who you think is an antagonist briefly, established an organization known as the International Order of Pawns. Lutwidge, the head of this organization, referred to himself as the Red Queen. This is an obvious Alice reference, but the first of many. In game information reveals that he has held several aliases in his life, all of them using the initials O. O. L. The names he uses are a little indirect, but still reference Alice. His various last names, Lidell and Lewis are references to Alice Liddell (the real life Alice) and to Lewis Carrol. I will spare further details since we will discuss this game in greater detail later.

In Batman: Arkham City one of the bosses is the “Mad Hatter.” This character was modeled around the character of the same name from the book. He originally appeared in the Batman comics in #49 in 1948, though he has never been an overly popular character.

The 2005 game Psychonauts has rabbit imagery. Much like Alice, Razputin, the main character, follows a white rabbit through certain parts of the game. Another in-game character, Coach Oleander, had an affinity for rabbits as a child. Not just in this game, but in several others there is a rabbit trope which guides the main character into a situation or throughout a world. Just a reminder, Alice fell into Wonderland after following a white rabbit down a hole.

The list goes on and on, but it is clear to see that Alice fell down the rabbit hole and changed the world. The fantasy world of Wonderland seems to have inspired a whole genre of its own. The movie The Matrix canbe viewed as a modern Alice story, with the protagonist being given the choice to go down the rabbit hole. In several instances a protagonist in a story is led by a small creature or clues. These tropes serve to guide the protagonist through unfamiliar territory or to begin the adventure. In addition, the idea of a fantasy world separate from the real world, while not originated by Lewis Carrol, became wildly popularized after Alice was published. Alice falls down a hole and walks through a door to get into Wonderland. Neo took a pill and escaped the “human battery farm.” In Bioshock Jack survived an airplane crash and swam to a lighthouse which leads him to Rapture. Again, to avoid overkill I’ll skip forward. These themes have repeated throughout books, movies, games, even music throughout the last ~150 years. So the next time when you watch The Matrix or when we play Bioshock, lets take a look at how Alice plays a role in those stories. The rabbit trope, the puzzles, the fantasy world separated from the real world, and the protagonist who happens to stumble into it all are worthy of our attention in the upcoming discussions.

  3 comments for “Curiouser and Curiouser

  1. 302writing
    March 21, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    You make a good point. Alice is featured throughout media and fiction. I think the main reason is due to universality of finding oneself in strange circumstances and feeling like Alice. There are also psychological connotations with the source material, so Alice fits with franchises like Batman and Psychonauts.

  2. Garrett Bush
    March 21, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    When I read the title of your post I was immediately excited, because like so many others, I really enjoy Alice in Wonderland. However when I saw you mention BioShock I struggled to remember any character obsessed with Carroll’s tale. I’ve played the game a few times now and I wasn’t sure who exactly your post was referring to. I had to look it up! The BioShock wiki entry for Orrin Oscar Lutwidge describes him as a character that was just part of the “There’s Something In the Sea” web campaign hyping up BioShock 2.

    Someone in the first BioShock who seems a little reminiscent of a much more mentally unstable Alice would be Sander Cohen. He has one particularly disturbing audio diary called “The Wild Rabbit” in which he describes feeling like a bunny that wants to take off its ears. I think this could be interpreted as Alice wanting to be rid of Wonderland when it’s just too much.

  3. April 4, 2013 at 8:55 am

    So why do you think this theme keeps coming back? And why so prominently in relation to video games and digital textuality? Is it just an easy trope to exploit, or does it speak to some deeper anxiety or problem?

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