Since my Doctor Who addiction isn’t getting any fixes lately (and it’s not for lack of episodes; I’m trying a new 12-step programme), I’ve turned in dignified desperation to Gilmore Girls and Alice in Wonderland. Returned would be a more appropriate term.
I realise that mix sounds about as strange as peanut butter and chocolate ice cream – which probably doesn’t sound strange at all to some – but there’s actually quite a few interesting comparisons betwixt and between. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m actually about to discuss the analogous relationship between Alice and the Lorelais. Lewis Caroll and Amy Sherman-Palladino, eat your hearts out.
Meet the Alices
Alice is introduced to us in the opening lines quite succinctly as a girl who is bored with her surroundings. From later revelations, we begin to form an idea of her being from a fairly well-off background where she fits in to an extent, but also possesses the kind of imagination (one could even say adventurous spirit) that sets her apart from her peers. Alice herself is involved in distinguishing herself from her peerage.
‘I’m sure I’m not Ada,’ she said, ‘for her hair goes in such long ringlets, and mine doesn’t go in ringlets at all; and I’m sure I can’t be Mabel, for I know all sorts of things, and she, oh! she knows such a very little!…’
Lorelai is presented, similarly, as a girl who feels constrained by her surroundings. Much as Alice wondered at the use of a book without pictures, we can easily imagine Lorelai pondering the point of frilly dresses that you couldn’t get dirty or crumpled. Both girls are dissatisfied with their situations; both girls are much too vivacious to be wholly comfortable in such “dull” settings.
Running away from home
The catalyst for Alice’s introduction to Wonderland is the White Rabbit, an ambiguous figure who is essentially the bait to Alice’s mouse trap. Without hesitation, Alice jumps up and runs after the rabbit, leaving behind her sane and stolid world of pictureless books, to chase something wholly fantastical.
Lorelai’s catalyst is her pregnancy, an unexpected and extremely cataclysmic change that forces her to make huge decisions regarding the direction her life must now take. In effect, when Lorelai chooses an alternate life to the one her parents have planned for her, she is choosing to follow the White Rabbit (her instinct) down an entirely alien path.
Neither character has any idea what awaits them, yet both willingly choose the unknown over their present station. Adventurousness and independence are common traits to both.
But is it fair to ascribe these qualities to Alice? From her point of view, she has no long-term plans, she is just a young girl chasing a rabbit. It would be unfair to cast too strong a comparison between her actions and Lorelai’s. The similarity I want to draw here is that both girls needed very little persuasion to quit their situations.
Alice’s Wonderland is full of strange and strangely familiar creatures, and she has to find her own way through the madness, dealing with a host of problems (size, communication, etiquette). Lorelai’s wonderland is also full of strange creatures. Her induction into Stars Hollow follows her employment at the Independence Inn, both locations fraught with memorable characters. In effect, Lorelai is making her own way through what is essentially a maze of unpredictable scenarios.
The experiences of Wonderland and pregnancy/leaving home are completely foreign and perhaps bewildering to both Alice and Lorelai. And in both worlds, the characters are brought to life in the way they deal with unfamiliar situations. Interactions (human or otherwise) form a driving force to the plot of both works.
Dualism and Multiplicity
On of Alice’s major problems in Wonderland is keeping her sense of self. She has cause to wonder on more than one occasion if she hasn’t somehow been changed into an entirely different person. Often, she herself is the cause of the change – as when she makes herself bigger or smaller – but she is often changed against her will, as well.
Multiplicity isn’t a problem for the Lorelais, so much as it is the status quo. So much emphasis is placed on mother/daughter relationships: the inevitability of the daughter becoming the mother, the stark contrast of Emily/Lorelai vs. Lorelai/Rory and the democracy of Lorelai/Rory which often presents Rory taking the more mature, reasonable (matriarchal) position. Both Lorelais so often switch positions between mother/daughter and best friends – most times at will.
Lorelai moves through the Looking Glass
As Lorelai and Rory begin to spend more time with Emily and Richard, there is a subtle reversal of roles, like a mirror reflection. The life that Lorelai so hastily discarded now holds a certain appeal for Rory and now it is she who must navigate the perils and pillars of high society, in the same way Lorelai had to adjust to life in Stars Hollow.
The reintroduction of Emily and Richard to Lorelai’s life at this stage marks the end of the comparison of Alice and Lorelai, since Alice could never bring anyone she knew into Wonderland. When she mentions her cat, for example, the reaction is less than favourable.
‘I wish I hadn’t mentioned Dinah!’ she said to herself in a melancholy tone. ‘Nobody seems to like her, down here, and I’m sure she’s the best cat in the world!
Similarly, Lorelai has never tried to include her parents in her new life, preferring to keep the two as separate as possible. She seems to feel that their intrusion would shatter the illusion or, rather, the comfortable reality she has built there in Stars Hollow.
The appeal of Wonderland, you see, is its total sequestration from one’s real world. Once the boundaries begin to dissolve, Wonderland (for the character in question) is no more. This paragraph by Alice’s sister sums it up quite nicely:
So she sat on, with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality–the grass would be only rustling in the wind, and the pool rippling to the waving of the reeds–the rattling teacups would change to tinkling sheep-bells, and the Queen’s shrill cries to the voice of the shepherd boy–and the sneeze of the baby, the shriek of the Gryphon, and all the other queer noises, would change (she knew) to the confused clamour of the busy farm-yard–while the lowing of the cattle in the distance would take the place of the Mock Turtle’s heavy sobs.
So when Emily and Richard become once more involved in Lorelai’s life, her dream life is subject to the intense scrutiny of her mother’s judgment calls, which completely ruins its appeal, much like the introduction of Dinah would threaten the way of life in Wonderland. Lorelai effectively leaves Wonderland, becoming perhaps the older sister who humours Alice’s fancy, but who is significantly more “grown-up”.
I could go on, but I feel this is more than long enough for a blog. I’m particularly fond of the way Palladino and Carroll manage to assimilate trivialities and non-sense so that they drive the plot in addition to being quirky and humorous, but that’s really neither here nor there. This comparison is, of course, open to loads of criticism. I have probably left things out, said things that someone disagrees with, or even completely misinterpreted one or the other opus. Oh well. I’m human and it’s well after midnight.
Thanks for reading.