First of all: This is not mine, this is an opinion article that I found in Live Journal and "princessatta" wrote it... Please read, it`s very interesting
Sometimes there are ships which defy all logic and are nonsensical. They transcend all time and translation. Or, in the case of Alice Kingsleigh and Tarrant Hightopp of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Time is killed altogether so that the ship can have a chance! Welcome to the ship that is Hatter/Alice (or Halice).
A Little History Behind Them
The idea of shipping Alice and the Mad Hatter is most indeed one that is curiouser and curiouser. But, whether many would probably admit it, I’m convinced there has always been some tantalizing siren call when it comes to these two. How it ever came to this, I cannot even begin to know. Still, if I was to venture a guess, despite all reason, I would put a majority of the blame on the original Disney animated classic.
Many might argue that it is impossible for it to be that version (seeing as it’s so not normal to think of pairing a young girl with a frumpy old man), but hear me out. It is the version most people have been most familiar with up until the past year. Furthermore, it is my firm belief that Disney is a very sneaky corporation full of very sneaky writers, artists, etc. After all, Disney doesn’t have its own collection of urban legends (which grows vaster every year) for no reason!! And one of the sneaky things I have always noticed about Disney is its longstanding relationship with the subject of romance. Ever since Dopey’s silly infatuation with Snow White, Disney has always hinted at seemingly romantic pairings beyond those of canon (usually beyond the norm – Ray and a star, for example – and, honestly, beyond the innocence you would expect from the company – Jafar/Jasmine anyone??)
So, why else would Disney perpetually use Mad Hatter and Alice (usually together) as the staple in advertisement for their animated movie? After all, the mad tea party is only an 8-9 minute portion of the film. Yet, some of the most familiar images we so often see in some form or fashion are of the two:
And that’s not even including the theme park!! According to Heather Hust Rivera, the manager of print and social media at Disneyland Resort, the Alice characters “are arguably some of the most famous and adored at Disney parks around the world.”
Not to mention the many cast members who act as these two characters are allowed to do off the wall things despite such acts possibly lending to the belief that Alice and Mad Hatter really are a little more than friends, or at least would like to be. I suggest taking a look at bri_chan's brilliant Disneyparks’ Alice/Hatter ship manifesto for a detailed look at how the Disneyparks’ Alice and Hatter really have helped in Disney’s mission to plant shipping notions into our brains over the years.
So, after years of subliminal, “you know you ship it” messages from sneaky, sneaky Disney, it’s no wonder SyFy’s Alice was poised to be a hit last year, becoming the first adaptation (to my knowledge) to successfully recreate the roles of Alice and Hatter so that not only was there full blown romance, but also a mass appeal of that romance.
Here enter the characters as adapted by Linda Woolverton. They are truly unique from any other adaptation, but I felt it necessary to briefly outline the above points for the purpose of showing what I believe lent to the massive explosion of this pairing practically from the moment the movie premiered. Would the fandom have still exploded? Yes, I’m certain it would have grown because these characters in this particular adaptation are perfectly suited to most shipper hearts everywhere. I simply feel the lack of Hatter/Alice in the more traditional setting – as opposed to the modern setting of SyFy’s Alice – definitely helped things along much quicker, because let’s face it, Disney has been setting this up for decades...but only a few of us realized it.
The Characters as Individuals
Alice Kingsleigh (or Kingsley: the variation spelling) is the daughter of Charles and Helen Kingsleigh. She was born in 1846 and resides in London as a part of, presumably, the upper middle class thanks to Charles’ highly successful business endeavors as the owner of a trading company. She has an older sister, Margaret who grows up to marry Lowell Manchester, who is seemingly unfaithful to Margaret behind her back (although we can’t be certain if his actions have ever gone beyond kissing other women). Some short time before the start of the film, we can’t be sure exactly when, Charles Kingsleigh passes away, and Lord Ascot purchases the trading company.
When Alice was 6 years old, she travelled to Underland, which she called Wonderland. During this trip, she had a mad tea party with The Hatter, the March Hare named Thackery and the door mouse named Mallymkun. She also painted the Red Queen’s white roses red. (Basically, we are to assume that Alice’s first trip to Underland was very much what we know it to be from other adaptations including the books, that is a series of unrelated ventures through this hidden world.) However, upon returning from Underland, the events were as nothing but a dream to Alice (as it is in the Disney animated version). After her return, Alice continues to have the same dream over and over again every night about some of the characters she had met in Underland (but we are left uncertain if she ever dreamed of Tarrant). Over the course of three years following her trip, these dreams turn into something more like nightmares and she fears, since it’s always the same, that she’s gone mad. Charles then teaches her a valuable lesson: all the best people are mad (this is almost like a foreshadowing in itself that she will find someone someday and he will be mad, but he will be best for her because of it). From this point on, we are to assume Alice grows up plagued by the same dream/nightmare and gets very little sleep due to continually pinching herself.
Alice grows up to be very much a woman ahead of the Victorian era she was born into. She does not care for stockings, corsets or rules and proprieties. When Alice is 19, she is proposed to by Lord Ascot’s son, Hamish in front of an entire party of guests. Conflicted with the many expectations as well as her own feelings –or lack thereof–for the man, Alice clearly sees the white rabbit, Nivens McTwisp, in his blue waistcoat with his pocket watch, and declares, “I need a moment!” before chasing after the creature. From here, she eventually falls back down the rabbit hole and into another “dream.”
Once she is in Underland again, she learns the Oraculum foretells that she will slay the dreaded Jabberwocky with the Vorpal Sword. She is the only one who can free the world from the rule of the Red Queen, Iracebeth and restore the White Queen, Mirana to the throne. Originally denying that everything is anything more than a dream, many events happen before Alice finally realizes Underland is real (her past dreams had been memories). Thus, she becomes the Champion the Oraculum foretold and sets things right. Alice then opts to leave Underland, though promising she will be back, and returns to the still-going party to tell everyone exactly what she learned in her latest “dream.” This includes, but is not limited to, her denying Hamish’s proposal and joining her late father’s business as Lord Ascot’s apprentice. The last we are able to know about Alice’s life is that six months after her returning from Underland the second time, Alice sets sail for the Orient to establish trade on behalf of the company. We can’t be certain she ever does keep her promise to go back to Underland, but she does seem to remember since she recalls Absolem by name.
Personality wise, Alice is very complex. Growing up, she fears she is mad. However, she never does anything to fit in or prove she isn’t. She continually thinks and says odd things. She is easily distracted and prone to flights of fancy. She starts out very insecure of her own thoughts and feelings. Although she knows she is different from everyone around her and strives to maintain her individuality, Alice also feels the pressures of the life she was born into. For example, she doesn’t refuse to dance with Hamish despite her disdain for the Quadrille. She also doesn’t have the courage at first to refuse Hamish’s proposal, although it is clear she doesn’t like the idea of being married to the young Lord. However, when she reaches Underland, Alice begins to change and we start to see her for whom she really is: strong, kindhearted, stubborn, a bit on the irrational side, outgoing, and possibly even half-mad (at least at times) just to name a very few layers. In the end, she is very much a masculine female (masculine in the sense of compared to other women of that time, not gender preference). This is hinted at by the fact that in Underland she opts to wear pants at Marmoreal, her fulfilling the prophecies as Champion – which was originally expected of a man, and when returning to London she chooses to take on a career.
At the heart of Alice’s complex character is her father. Thus, I feel the relationship should be briefly examined. Much of what has shaped Alice are the words her father said, such as believing in six impossible things before breakfast. Even their scene about being mad paints a very vivid portrait of their relationship. Charles could have easily reassured her that she wasn’t mad. That would be the normal thing for a loving father to do. Instead, he was telling her that he believed in her no matter what, even if she should really be mad. This strong bond between them (it is clear Alice is very much like her father), of course, is broken when Charles passes. So, it is no wonder Alice would feel confused by the world around her without him or know how to just be herself without his reassuring her. She is suddenly all alone with no one left to believe in her for who she is.
Tarrant Hightopp is the last remaining member of the Hightopp Clan. The Hightopp Clan consisted of humans who resided in Witzend. We can’t be certain how they came to be in Underland or if they’ve always been there. All we know is that the Hightopp Clan were all milliners by trade and one was always employed at royal court. Before the Horunvendush Day, Tarrant was the one employed at court, as hatter to the White Queen. At that time, Tarrant’s hair had only just begun to turn orange (a child is briefly shown with dark hair, insinuating orange is most likely not the natural hair color of Hightopp Clan members) from mercury poisoning. It was long and wavy, not the short frizz it has become. His face was not as pale, nor did he wear make-up of any kind. In fact, it is quite possible that the madness from the mercury poisoning led to Tarrant’s applying make-up, but I will touch more on that later. It is unclear how old Tarrant was at the time, but it is clear he was much younger (as implied by his features). My personal guess is he was in his 20’s (since I think this allows enough time for his appearance to have changed drastically to what it was when Alice made her first trip).
On the Horunvendush Day, the Red Queen’s Jabberwocky swooped in and destroyed everyone of the Hightopp Clan with the exception of Tarrant. He managed to escape because, as Royal Hatter, his duty was first to Mirana and, thus, in making sure she was safe, he managed to get to safety as well. He returned later to the burning ruins and was only able to retrieve a single hat – the iconic top hat he almost always wears. Tarrant’s deep loss has contributed greatly to his purpose in life. He is very passionate about the cause: Downal wyth Bluddy Behg Hid (Down with the bloody big head). In fact, he is very much the leader of the Underground Resistance as was directly stated in the first draft of the script and only implied in the film. It is evidenced by his speech to Alice about what the Red Queen has done that Tarrant is vengeful in his quest to see Iracebeth brought down.
It can also be safely assumed that this deep loss has contributed to his slow descent into madness. This is evidenced by Tarrant’s very rocky relationship with the Chesire Cat. He blames Chessur for not having done anything courageous on the Horunvendush Day (in the first draft, it is clearly stated that Chessur vanished at the very beginning of the Jabberwocky’s assault). This also implies that Tarrant’s madness drives him to relate Chessur’s cowardice with the loss of his family. While it isn’t rational, that’s the point! It proves Tarrant has not let go of the past and just the very thought of the past sends him into a fit of madness.
So, this seems like a good moment to directly address the Mad behind the Hatter. Before going any further, you must throw out all thoughts of a Mad Hatter who is simply, utterly mad for no reason or of a Mad Hatter who is mad nearly 24/7. You see, Tarrant Hightopp is only half-mad. He is going mad, but not quite gone. Actually, he is quite sane!! That is, he is sane when he has a hold of himself. For example: he is able to stand up to the Red Queen, he is able to see the imposters in the Red Queen’s royal court for who they are, he is able to hatch a plan with Chessur to escape, he is quick to figure out how to get Alice to safety (throwing her on his hat and then giving himself up), and so the list goes on and on. Furthermore, Tarrant seems to have two brands of madness.
First, there is the madness which sometimes broils up from within him when something angers him or when he becomes panicked. It is a manic aggression that causes his eyes to change from their usual green to a fiery orange as he looks for anything he can take this rage out on. His rage causes him to nearly kill the Knave, proving he could actually be dangerous if not kept in check (in this case, he sees Alice standing in victory which brings him back to his senses). It is my firm belief that this is the madness that comes from his troubled soul. The very fact that he refuses to Futterwacken (a dance of unbridled joy) until Mirana is queen again seems to serve as proof that so long as the Red Queen reigns, he will not be able to find peace. It is this bitterness that always incites his fits of terrifying madness in the movie. Second, there is the general madness. I tend to call it a giddy madness. For, even though he lives in half-madness at all times, it only seems to become predominant when he becomes excited about something. When this madness strikes, he becomes ridiculously silly (although it can wander towards anger if he allows it). With a suddenly very definitive lisp, he spouts off random things such as calling Alice a him or asking why a raven is like a writing desk. There are still touches of sanity when this madness takes over, it is just very much like he transforms into a child with a short attention span. This, in my opinion, is the madness of the mercury poisoning.
In fact, all of Tarrant’s existence will be forever marked with madness from the mercury poisoning. Symptoms of mercury poisoning (aside from hair turning to an orange color) include timidity, insecurity, and anxiety. This fits the description of Tarrant’s general, half-mad character as well as the moments when he becomes ridiculously mad as explained above. His lisp portrays his timidity, the random riddles express his anxiety and his stuttering and rambling indicate his insecurity. It also presents a very strong theory as to why he now wears make-up. Since mercury poisoning strips one of almost all confidence over time, this extreme timidity could lead to a very sensitive, even overly-feminine man. Another symptom of mercury poisoning is that the timidity leads to one actually wanting to hide away. It is also possible that Tarrant is attempting to cover his face in hopes of being ignored. Is it rational, seeing as it would actually lead to people paying more attention to him? No, but that’s the point!
When sane, Tarrant is strong, brave, devoted, trusting, amusing, clever, learned, optimistic, and caring. After Alice leaves Underland, we have no way of knowing what becomes of Tarrant. However, the first time Alice left, Tarrant killed Time waiting for her to come back. This made Time angry and so he stopped for Tarrant (and Thackery) leaving him literally stuck at a specific time for several years by our time (not sure how that translates to Underland’s clocks). Thus, many assume Tarrant may try to kill Time again or something else of a very devoted nature. On the other hand, it is also possible that he will go back to his job as hatter for the White Queen.
The Characters Together
It is a very confounding thing, this adaptation. It is canon, semi-canon and non-canon all at once. In the first draft of the script it was indeed canon. In the book adaptation of the final film, it is semi-canon. In the final film, well it’s pretty much non-canon.
At one point, when Tarrant was imprisoned, he was going to reach through the bars, touch Alice’s face and declare, “You could almost make me forget what I have sworn to do.” Instead, we get Alice grabbing Tarrant’s face which eventually leads to him saying, “Why is it you’re always too small or too tall?” A statement that has been interpreted (including in the book adaptation of the film) as meaning Alice and Tarrant both wish she wasn’t too big for them to kiss.
In the first draft of the script, Mirana was going to realize the romance between Tarrant and Alice as she openly worries about his fate back at Salazen Grum (the Red Queen’s castle). Instead, in the film we get just about NOTHING from Alice on the matter besides going straight to Hatter and stating how happy she is he’s alive once he makes it to Marmoreal (the White Queen’s castle). However, in the book adaptation, we have Alice inwardly wishing she was back at Salazen Grum as she worries about whether or not Tarrant is being beaten or worse. Then, instead of walking to him when he arrives at Marmoreal safely, she literally runs to him, throws her arms about him and then he takes her hands in his own.
Finally, there is a matter of TWO kisses which took place in the first draft. One was to happen right after Tarrant finishes his Futterwacken and the second was to take place just as Alice is about to leave. In the movie, we instead get Tarrant being so horribly sad that Alice is leaving. He leans in close to whisper fairfarren and Alice is left with a look that makes you wonder if she suddenly realizes the really stupid mistake she is making in leaving him. As for the book, well it’s quite curious indeed. Right after the Cheshire Cat explains to Alice that Hatter is doing the Futterwacken, the following is written (emphasis added):
The White Queen knelt beside the body of the fallen Jabberwocky and caught a drop of its blood in a vial. She stood up and handed the vial to Alice as the Hatter let her go.
Let her go from what!? There is no hug or kiss previously mentioned anywhere within the text of the book. More sneakiness, eh? No way of saying for sure, but it’s pretty amazing to think even the implication of some sort of epic embrace or kiss made it into the book adaptation despite it not being in the final film.
So what are you supposed to accept as canon? Even if you throw out the first draft of the script, do you also throw out the book adaptation which was authorized and seemingly approved by Disney (although, I’m slightly convinced the adaptation writer did NOT see the same movie as we did)? Do you simply take the movie at face value? Even then, does their parting scene in Underland imply they really did have something for each other even if it’s not [yet or ever] meant to be? The fact is there is no simple answer. The choice is yours what you choose as canon, and it seems to vary from fanwork to fanwork. Even if the script is not really acceptable as canon, it does at least prove that the original intent was for Tarrant and Alice to be together and that’s a pretty strong indication of why shippers are able to see hints of romance between the two in what did make it to the final film (you know what I’m going to say: sneaky, sneaky…).
Why Do They Belong Together?
To put it simply: Alice is Tarrant’s sanity and Tarrant is Alice’s muchness.
From the moment Tarrant comes onto the screen, I believe it is quite clear that they belong together. At the very sight of Alice, Tarrant’s clothes literally perk up. His bow tie flares in a way that matches his own wide smile. Then, overwhelmed by his excitement, he crosses the tables to get to her as quickly as possible. Then, with an awe-filled look and a breathless voice, he declares, “It’s you!”
And from the second he lays eyes on her, Tarrant believes in Alice the way she has always wanted someone to believe in her (the way her father always believed in her). When all of the others doubt that she is the Alice, including herself, he recalls her muchness and he knows she is the one he killed Time for. Bayard says it best: “The Hatter would not give himself up for just any Alice.” And not even when Alice tells him she won’t slay anything does he actually doubt she is Alice. In fact, the scene in which Tarrant and Alice have their slight quarrel on their way to Marmoreal portrays my two points on muchness and sanity quite perfectly.
First, it reaffirms that Alice needs Tarrant. She is the right Alice, but Tarrant also knows that she has lost something since her first trip. He knows exactly that she is lacking her muchness before she even realizes it herself. After this confrontation, Alice goes to great lengths to prove her muchness to him. She refuses to abandon him to the Red Queen and does all she can to save him. It is obvious she has been affected by Tarrant’s telling her she has lost her muchness. It seems to show how important Tarrant’s opinion of her is to Alice: she has yet to accept the fact that she is the Alice that can slay the Jabberwocky, but still she wants to be the Alice that Tarrant remembers. It’s an oxymoron that proves her feelings for him! Furthermore, when Alice is with Tarrant in Salazen Grum, she seems very certain of herself and is willing to get the Vorpal Sword because he wants her to. This speaks volumes. Without Tarrant, Alice is not as “muchier” as she can be.
Secondly, the scene reaffirms that Tarrant needs Alice. It is clear that Tarrant is hurt when Alice tells him to put the thought of her slaying out of his mind. We can’t be certain, but perhaps it’s this moment that he realizes she doesn’t remember him. Had she remembered him, she wouldn’t have made such a careless comment (given his condition). You can see very clearly that he is on the brink of having a fit of madness (of the angry variety). However, he looks at her before simply picking her up off his shoulder and setting her down on a log. Yes, he is still angry, but he never hurts her. This says so much!! Something keeps the madness at bay. So, seeing as his anger is geared at Alice directly, we might be able to assume that somewhere inside his jumbled mind, he knows he can’t ever hurt Alice. He can maybe leave her in the middle of Tulgey Woods, but he can keep the madness from doing anything worse. This is why it seems perfectly clear that, even when she is to blame for the madness, Alice is Tarrant’s sanity in the midst of insanity.
Other notable moments include (but are not limited to):
- Tarrant sharing with Alice what happened on the Horunvendush Day. It pains him greatly to recount it, but he trusts Alice enough to tell her all about his past. Even though they just had a confrontation and she angered him, he is still willing to open up to her.
- Alice’s devotion to not only Tarrant, but also his hat. Alice knows that without the hat there is no Hatter, in a sense. It is a part of him. Having also lost someone she cared about, it can serve as a sign of their emotional connection. In many ways, Tarrant’s hat also acts as Alice’s protection. It saves her from the red knights and it offers her shelter once she is safe. Furthermore, it is a metaphor for her unspoken longings. She sees the hat and Hatter as one and the same; thus, her being so strongly connected to the hat (as evidenced when Tarrant arrives at Marmoreal and she almost instantly notices it is missing) is really the outer manifestation of her connection to Tarrant.
- Alice and Tarrant’s time alone together on the balcony at Marmoreal. There are many poignant details which could be touched on here. But I think my favorite is the sadness in Tarrant’s face when he says, “Then that would mean I’m not real.” There is such sanity in this line. He realizes if he is just a dream then he and Alice can never really be together. This same sadness is echoed in Alice saying, “I’ll miss you when I wake up.” Throughout this scene, it is clear they feel something very deep for one another. And although it is sad, it allows for Alice’s later moment of realization that Hatter is indeed real to be more heartfelt. It makes it all the more of an exciting revelation to her that Tarrant is real!
- Tarrant breaks all the rules for Alice. First, Tarrant is willing to step up to the challenge of being Champion instead. I should point out that we are specifically supposed to see how his doing so is directly related to Alice since the camera cuts to her immediately after he volunteers. Surely, Tarrant must still realize that Alice is the only one who can actually defeat the Jabberwocky. He must know that it means he would go to his doom. Yet, he is willing to go in her stead anyway (that or he understands the method of reverse psychology!). Later, when Alice has begun to fight the Jabberwocky, he first struggles to not step in to rescue her (this alone proves how he feels about her!), but then he completely disregards Mirana’s saying Alice must step out alone by interfering.
Why do I ship it and why should you ship it?
I have shipped Alice and Tarrant from the time the promotional pictures were revealed early in 2009. I saw Tarrant and I saw Alice and in my head I thought: If I watch this, I’m going to ship them. I just know it.
But aside from the freaky premonitions I often get, I think it’s pretty explicit that Alice and Tarrant were made for each other. They complement each other perfectly. They are both half-mad apart from one another, but together -instead of being completely mad- they are completely sane. Once again, like everything else in Underland, it’s not supposed to make sense.
I ship them because I see more than just a romantic connection. Yes, I see the chemistry. But I also see the need. It is like they are bound to one another. Alice was always meant to come to Underland and Tarrant was always meant to be there when she did. In my opinion, it is why he survived Horunvendush Day to begin with. Their connection is metaphysical. It is so deep they cannot escape it even if they wanted. Just one example of this would be the fact that Alice went to Salazen Grum solely to rescue Tarrant, but she also needed to be there to retrieve the Vorpal Sword. This means her destiny was intertwined with her desire (as it often is for people).
Thus, I ship them because they cannot truly exist without one another. That, and because they are just so darn cute together ;)
Do you need more reasons to ship them? Beyond the fact that they are most clearly meant to be, they offer something that is rare in ships. Their relationship is heterosexual, but offers a break from the classic sense of het, without necessarily becoming au-ish. Remember what I said about Alice being masculine and Tarrant being feminine? Alice is masculine without giving up her femininity altogether. Tarrant, on the other hand, has been driven to a more feminine being, but has not lost all masculinity. This can offer shippers the chance to play around with how to interpret their relationship and it can vary from one minute to the next!
Then, there is the fact that their relationship allows for much exploration beyond what the movie gave us. It is Underland! Nothing is impossible. There is extensive room for growth and new story plots and so on. The movie leaves us with the hope that Alice will be back before Tarrant knows it. So, the door is open wide to imagination! (And any concern over their age gap is all but silenced since Time is very funny in Underland.)
So, what are you waiting for? All aboard!!