Thematic Similarities Between ‘Alice In Borderland’ And ‘Alice In Wonderland,’ Discussed


When we compared the phantasmagorical reality of Lewis Caroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” to the morbidity of “Alice in Borderland,” we found a lot of thematic similarities between both creations. Apart from the names of characters such as the Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, the essence of the quest and the philosophy that it entailed bore an uncanny resemblance. Where Alice, throughout her journey in Wonderland, realized how absurd the adult world was; the gamekeepers of Borderland were sick and tired of that same adult world, which is why they decided not to go back to reality. In a certain sort of way, the game masters were like children who could only decipher the world in terms of black and white, with any shades in between causing them to be jaded. Alice experienced something similar in Wonderland. She realized that the world of adults had its absurdities, just like the game masters of Borderland realized the cruelties and corruptions of the real world. One perspective would be that Borderland is nothing more than a dystopian Wonderland.

In Wonderland, we were made aware of the significance of social breeding and the impact it has on the lives of people. Obviously, there is no denying that there are some congenial dispositions that account for an individual’s actions, but a lot of the time, it is the social norms and traditions that mold those innate qualities and influence the ideologies of human beings. Corruption has become an inevitable part of bureaucracy because, somewhere, every individual wants to be treated favorably. Humans aren’t born corrupt, but they realize the power of leverage and how everything favors you when you have it. The socio-political environment and also the kind of upbringing a person has greatly determines if they are going to reap the benefits of a corrupt setup or stand against it. We saw in “Alice in Borderland” that Kazuryu and Chishiya faced a moral dilemma when they decided to stay quiet and, in turn, reap the benefits of corrupt practices. Their inherent qualities, their morality, their integrity, and everything else told them that whatever they were doing was not right, but still, they went ahead with it. Kazuryu wanted to make the businessman change his decision and provide compensation to the aggrieved parties, but he realized that some notions were so deeply rooted in society that it was impossible for him alone to uproot them. The social structure had nurtured the people in such a manner that Kazuryu realized that it was a futile attempt to try to appeal to the conscience of the individual. He got an opportunity to create an entirely new structure in Borderland, and that is probably why he decided to stay there. The utopian society gave him an opportunity to create a game that made sure that mortals were not in a position to determine the fate of individuals. Kazuryu knew that if a person didn’t have the power to give something, then he shouldn’t have the capacity to take it either.

Lewis Caroll constantly points out how we become more and more hypocritical as we grow up, and we shed the innocence that we once had as children. In Borderland, too, the adults are shown as these pretentious beings who do not even realize that they are not what they think themselves to be. Probably, Nigari was the only character who knew exactly who he was, and he acted unabashedly without any kind of posturing. Chishiya, Arisu, and a lot of others constantly deceived themselves and believed that they were people who were morally upright. Niragi showed them the mirror and told them that they were just as selfish as he was. Arisu had a lot of regrets about Karube and Chota dying during the game of tag, and there is no denying that he felt bad about it. But there was this tiny part inside him that also felt relieved. He was scared to face that unscrupulous side of his personality, and that is why it impacted him and Chishiya greatly when Niragi coerced them to see the truth. Death was omnipresent in Wonderland, and through Alice’s journey, we saw how it was symbolically represented by various elements and characters. Death was an important element in Borderland as well, and the game masters used it to peel off the layers of the players and make them privy to their truest form. Kyuma, the King of Clubs, had created a game where the players had to face an imminent threat of death because he had a deep understanding of how human beings functioned. He knew that when it came to a person’s survival, they shed their pretentiousness and did things without caring about what others would think about them.

Kyuma always wanted to reside in a world that was devoid of any discrimination. He knew that it was impossible to achieve that feat in the real world, and that is why he had decided to stay in the Borderlands with his entire crew. He believed in the ideology that for justice to prevail, first, there should be the establishment of a society in which each and every member was given equal status. He was putting his philosophies into practice, something that constitutions around the world only spoke of doing. Just like “Alice in Wonderland” portrayed the absurdity of upper-class Victorian society, Shinsuke Sato’s Netflix series “Alice in Borderland” showed us how ludicrous and prejudiced man-made systems were. The game masters were analogous to the creatures that Alice encounters in Wonderland, where each one of them symbolizes some significant notion of mortal life. Arisu, Usagi, and others had an enlightening experience every time they met with a game master. They learned about harsh realities and realized how tangibly desolate their real world was. The experience had such a deep impact on so many players like Yaba and Banda that they ultimately decided to stay in Borderland, even if it meant risking their lives and dealing with the fear of being killed.

At the end of the story, Alice wakes up and escapes her doom, but she still clearly remembers the uncanny happenings that took place inside her dream world. In a similar fashion, Arisu, Usagi, Chishiya, Niragi, Akane, and others also wake up in the real world, though they don’t remember anything that happened to them inside the Borderland. In both places, the experience caused a shift in ideologies and gave the characters a new perspective on life. When they saw life through a looking glass, they were able to critique their own actions, and hopefully, in “Alice in Borderland” season 3, we will see them implement the change that they desire to see in the world.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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