Culture

Porn 101: Alice in Wonderland As an X-Rated Musical Fantasy/Comedy

Culture

Porn 101: Alice in Wonderland As an X-Rated Musical Fantasy/Comedy

There is a German word for the concrete-perceptual feeling one gets at the precise moment of cognizance that a movie being watched is now not a movie, but a musical.

The word is areyoufuckingkiddingmegeist.

Bud Townsend’s 1976 retelling of Alice in Wonderland, produced by Bill Osco and recommended by eleven out of ten vintage porn aficionados, is prima facie such a film. Originally rated X and subtitled either “A Musical Fantasy” or “A Musical Comedy,” Townsend’s Alice seems more like the latter. Surely, he must be taking the golden shower. In what adult’s fantasy, for one, is a robust sexual awakening undertaken via song and dance? And for another, is it not hard to sing with all that dick in your mouth?

First, one will argue Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is not an adult fantasy, but is in fact a children’s story, no matter how X-rated the retelling. Yet the retellings tell us truths (and not simply about Carroll’s putative pedophilia). Unlike a fairy tale or fable, Alice isn’t about how to be or behave as a child. Its tricks don’t trade in mores or morals, but in choices, consequences, twisted by the curious logic of caprice. In lieu of punishment, pleasure is the only accepted law. Thus, Alice is about how to be a grown-up, at least in the way children perceive these big Others, colloquially known as “Mom” and “Dad:” The magical giants who make up rules.

And so more than any children’s story, this child’s fantasy of adulthood has had lasting significance for art (see: Surrealism, all of it), for psychoanalysis (from Lacan to Luce Irigaray), and for cinema. In Czechoslovakia alone, two cult classics are culled from Alice: the stop-motion necroromance Neco z Alenky (1988), and the more loosely inspired Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

Still, no film pursues the pleasure principle with as deep a phenomenological commitment to double entendres as Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Sexual Fantasy.

Consider an early salvo between the titular Alice (Kristine DeBell), a librarian who does not have sex, and the White Rabbit. “I’m so confused,” says our stereotype-defying heroine. “One minute I’m in a real world and the next thing I know I’m here in a make-believe one.”

“Alice,” retorts Rabbit, “what makes you think your world is real and our is imaginary?

“Is this the real world?”

“It is if you want it to be.”

Here, the Rabbit reveals his heritage masculinity (waistcoat; pocket-watch) to be mere drag, as beneath it, he is neither authoritarian nor dualist. Also, he is naked. Soon, Alice will be too, as her adventures lead her to an immanent collapse of the imaginary and the real, the spiritual and the “big naturals.” As Deleuze wrote, this synthesis leads to “not the myth of a past people, but the story-telling of a people to come”—and come everywhere.

Alice, however, hardly knows what “come” is. Like our Valerie of the Czech New Wave, she is a sexual neophyte, borne into her bodily awakening on a stream of extremely altered consciousness. Like Valerie, she touches herself for the very first time, alone, in some enchanted forest of the real. The scene is all woods, and yet, woodless.

One wonders: Does she even need wood?

One girl’s dream may be Andrea Dworkin’s nightmare, and so it seems with this sweet, pliable woman-child—played with Golden Globes-worthy ingenue-ity by de Bell—as men do curious and curioser things to/with her, with dubious and dubiouser consent. But then, so do women, and women do it better. In the end, as though in a world dreamed by men’s rights activists, the patriarchy does not exist. It is the evil, gothic Queen who demands not Alice’s head, but head from Alice. And if the Queen demands head, one guesses that cunt’s gettin’ eaten.

Jouissance is the Frenchest word. It is impossible to translate exactly, but signifies an intolerable enjoyment, a pleasure on the pain of near-death. The holy motor of jouissance is what Lacan called lalangue, or “mother tongue,” and described as an unconscious “knowing how to do things.”

When the girl meets her Queen’s demand, lalangue meets jouissance. The English word for this is “muff-diving,” and when it happens, one forgets this was ever a musical. There is hardly a more perverse achievement. 

Then, there’s this: Alice leaves wonderland, returning mermaid-like through the river back to the “real” world, to the man who wants to have sex with her, and with whom she is now awakened and willing enough to please. Having gained the whole world, she’s now losing her virginity. It is, of course, the film’s most boring scene.