The Beaten Diaries #6: Alice Liddell

APRIL ISSUE: POST #29

Surprise, surprise. This post is about one of my favourite games. I swear I have too many favourite games. Although is there such a thing as a ‘favourite game’? I think there isn’t. There are too many games out there that it makes it literally impossible to narrow it down to just one.

But that being said, Alice: Madness Returns is one of the games that I enjoyed the most, plus it’s one of the games that I have beaten more than once, which is a milestone in itself really. If I have enough patience to play a game more than once, then I know it’s a good one.

Alice: Madness Returns is a horror action-adventure platform video game developed by Spicy HorseI didn’t actually know that the headquarters was in Shanghai, although unfortunately since 2016, Spicy Horse shut down in order to focus on smaller indie developments. But, this developer did a pretty dang good job of bringing Alice in Wonderland back into the world, but this time, with a unique twist.

This game is actually a sequel to American McGee’s Alice which similarly is a horror action-adventure video game, but released back in 2002 on PC. The developer was Rogue Entertainment and the game was received fantastically well, receiving a multitude of positive reviews. The game’s plot and the setting is similar to that of Alice: Madness Returns, where it presents a rather nightmarish and corrupted version of a place called Wonderland. This world comes about because frankly, Alice is mad. I mean that’s kind of how this whole story is portrayed. As ‘madness’.

In the second game, it again follows the craziness of Alice’s mind but focuses more on the story of her family perishing in a fire, which, unsurprisingly, causes her to suffer the trauma in the first place. She is then put into an orphanage for the mentally traumatised, and is under the care of a doctor. During her treatment, she learns more and more about her past and falls into Wonderland, which of course, is just as evil and weird as it was in the first game.

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Now, of course, this whole concept is based off a very popular story. The story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll. If you don’t know the story, then it’s a very similar concept to the games. There’s this dainty yet brave girl, she falls down a hole into Wonderland, and she finds it to be a rather peculiar world and it’s very mad and fantasy-like and lots of interesting events occur.

Today though, I’m going to be talking about Alice Liddell in particular, and I don’t mean the character. I mean the actual person. Yes, there was an actual person with this name. I don’t know if everyone else knows already, but I didn’t. I was pretty surprised and intrigued to see what the links between the girl and the story were, so I’m going to write about what I found out.

Alice Liddell

Alice Pleasance Liddell was born on May 4th, 1852 in London, and Lewis Carroll was born as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in 1832. The story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published on the 26th November 1865 by Macmillan, which means that Alice was 13 years old at the time of release. The original idea for Alice came from a story that Carroll told her and her family during a boat trip when she was 10 years old. During the stretch between Oxford and Godstow, she had asked Lewis Carroll to tell her and her sisters a story, and she was delighted when the character was named after her, but it took him a long time before the actual manuscript was produced. Carroll said himself though, that the character Alice was entirely fictional, and was not based on anyone, although there are a couple of links, which all in all, I think does show some faint resemblance.

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The interesting thought behind this is that there is actually a lot of controversy around their friendship. Carroll’s other hobby was photography (the photograph above is by him), taking thousands upon thousands of photos in his lifetime, and he was also known to like being friends with children and would often talk to little girls at beaches and on trains, although he primarily had a great passion for Alice.

There was never anything to prove that he had any paedophilic thoughts, which means that perhaps his liking for children was more of a complicated admiration and appreciation. There is some really interesting research, one of which being that a biographer called Morton Cohen noticed that on Carrolls worst days battling with insomnia, were days on which he coincidentally saw Alice, which means there could’ve been something strange going on inside his mind, whether that was restraining or fighting sexual thoughts or not. But again, we can’t just assume these things.

There is a news story here that discusses the discovery of a completely nude photograph taken of Alice’s elder sister in her teenage years, but there is no proof to say that the photograph was in fact taken by Lewis Carroll. With that being said, I do believe that Carroll was, in quite a lot of ways, a repressed paedophile, but to the point where he was so infatuated with girls, especially Alice, that he didn’t dare to cross any boundaries.

A quote I found from the BBC states that “for Victorian artists, children represented the blank slate of humanity – the potential to experience pure thoughts and feeling before the corruptions of modern life intervened.” Of course, how people viewed these sorts of issues was different back during the Victorian Era, and photographs of children in such a way were completely normal, and most of the time, wasn’t meant to come across as erotic. But should it have been normal? Maybe not. Are some photographs of children still inappropriate today? Who knows, but we certainly shouldn’t be making children the victims.

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However, the relationship with him and the family cooled down drastically when Alice was 11, so this definitely raises some speculation. There are many articles about his relationship with Alice but since he hated interviews and sharing his personal life, I suppose we’ll never know the truth.

Carroll’s photography of the children may be seen as risky today, and we always jump to the worst conclusions, but back in those days, he never showed any impropriety and he had good intentions. To be honest, there isn’t too much we can do after so long, but the story of Alice in Wonderland continues to be, as Tim Burton puts it “a drug for children.” and there’s no doubt that the messed up world of Wonderland will be around for decades to come, and hopefully, joint with more video game adaptions (because I for one certainly wouldn’t mind).

Thank you for reading and Happy Gaming!

-LDG

 

 

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