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Ask most any anglophile if they’d want to live in a society as structured as Victorian era England and they’ll say no, particularly if they are a woman. So what explains the attraction? After all, we Americans eat up Victorian culture like it was candy, providing of course that it’s sugar-coated enough. Otherwise, Robert Downey Jr, would be relatively obscure in his role of Sherlock Holmes, and Jeremy Brett would be hailed by the masses as the definitive portrayal. Which he was, but that’s another subject.
There always seemed to me to be a bubbling undercurrent of sexuality in the Alice tales, and I’m not talking about the rumors that Lewis Carroll had a thing for little girls. I would imagine any time you have society where sexuality is repressed to the degree that the Vic’s tried to do, it’s only natural that references have to be deeply embedded. I don’t believe it was necessarily overt – maybe just the subconscious working its way into the work.
Victorians must have seen hidden references everywhere, because as we all know, once we pick up a hidden message, they then appear everywhere we look. Though I can’t put my finger on exactly why, I can’t point to any specific passages, I’ve always found the Alice stories to be erotic. Not Alice herself, nor any single character. I suppose it’s just the world they live in, where anything can happen and it’s not always of our own control.
I would be remiss not to mention the British fascination with dominance and submission. Anyone whose ever watched Monty Python’s Flying Circus had to have picked up on that. Then again, I’ve always considered Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins to be about the hottest woman on screen through the sixties and beyond. So prim and proper on the outside but the wildness shown through. And maybe it’s the curiosity of the Alice stories and how it’s made up as you go along that taps into something inside. Curiosity, innocence and ignorance to how things are done, wrapped in to mantle of a repressive society can be a heady thing.
Then again perhaps that I’ve just never met my own Mary Poppins?
Image taken at Old Westbury Gardens, Old Westbury, New York