Mental Illness and Its Stigma in Tim Burtons Alice in Wonderland

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One of the main themes to appear in Tim Burtons Alice in Wonderland is the theme of mental madness. Burtons leading character and the main protagonist Alice is believed to be, in real sense, suffering from a brain disorder. She appears to be suffering from schizophrenia, a brain condition that involves hallucinations, delusions, and unwanted behavior, in the film. It is rather clear that her arriving in wonderland is through delusions. Nobody in the real world seems to experience all that Alice is encountering. Through this condition, Alice believes that wonderland is real (Charanee, 2015).

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Mad Hatter suffers from bipolar disorder. His bipolar disorder is as a result of mercury poisoning. Bipolar disorder is a health condition characterized by extreme lows and highs with regards to ones moods. Persons with bi-polar disorders are often very extravagant especially when there moods hit the ceiling. They constantly engage in activities and events that make them the center of attention. In short, they are attention seekers when they are at their highs. This is just like the mad hatter in this film Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. On the contrary, when they are at their lows, they are often associated with being enclosed and angry at all times. Mad Hatter, in the film, when at his emotional lows, confines himself in a dark place and explodes into a burst of anger and rage.

Then there is the Red Queen. There is the intentional exaggeration of her head. This is a result of her self -obsession. The Red Queen is believed to be suffering from a borderline personality disorder. This disorder is associated with certain unnecessary moods targeted at a specific individual. It is triggered by individuals who smile or stare at one affected with this disorder in a rather displeasing manner. The Red Queen as portrayed by Tim Burton is fast to get mad when things go contrary to her expectation. She has no mercy against her foes and those who have in one way or the other betrayed her (Charanee, 2015).

Another example of character associated with suffering from the general anxiety disorder. Tim Burton portrays the white rabbit as always anxious and in a hurry. The white rabbits acts like something unpleasant is likely to take place hence constantly in a hurry. Besides that, the caterpillar is also viewed as suffering from substance abuse disorder. It seems to be holding a pipe and a pot suspected to be a pot of hard drugs.

With regards to stigma, the film above features, the Dodo bird is portrayed as a character determined to fight stigma after the Caucus race. Dodo bird declares that every participant of the race is a winner and is entitled to receive a prize regardless of the position one held. The dodo bird is used to explain a conundrum emanating from the change of behavior research that does not succeed in distinguishing superiority and seniority among discrete plans for psychotherapeutic developments.

In reference to the critics, Alice is not insane but rather unstable. Ultimately she goes against all odds and finds stability. Critics such as Antoine De Baecque assert that Alice portrays a hero amongst the youth due to triumph over instability and her ultimate sanity as the film comes to a close (Pernicano, 2013).

The aforementioned characters are in one way or the other associated with real mental illnesses in our society. Alices delusion of a wonderland as a real place that exists exposes her possible mental illness, Paranoid schizophrenia.

Disney films and its themes

The mental illness stigma as Portrayed in Disney films Alice in Wonderland structure through character experiences and encounters consolidated with the impact of outside sources, the most cases rest on such film as well as social media. Theoretical approaches to the study of the impact of mental illness in this film posit that there is the stigma of mental illness representations.

To begin with, research carried out by Lawson and Fouts (2004) analyzed how mental illness stigma is reflected in Disney movies. They picked Disney movies, for example, Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo. This implies that Disney films are the significant world maker of animated movies widely watched by children, and the films are believed to stand the test of time with a wide impact on many generations of these children. Lawson and Fouts (2004) examined thirty-four movies and found that 85% of Disney movies in their sample inferred to mental illness stigma. They found that verbal references to mental illness in the movies were more manifest than the references that the children may encounter in real life. The average number of verbal references in the movies was at four percent, and these references frequently had negative implications.

Additionally, another good case given by Lawson and Fouts (2004) was Maurice from Beauty and the Beast. Maurice is portrayed as "lunatic" and an "insane" by the town, and in one scene he is even pulled away in wagon meant for lunatics. In such a situation, the children receive a message that mental illness is associated with madness, and such people are totally dangerous for the peaceful coexistence of people. Consequently, they should not be part of the community.

Situation of Stigma and Mental health

Disney films have continuously depicted themes such as stigma, society disintegration, growing up, identity, curiosity and many others that are in one way or another are related to stigma and mental illness.

A comparable research was carried out by Wahl, Wood, Zaveri, Drapalski, and Mann, (2003), in which analysts inspected 60 Disney movies that were rated as General viewing as well as Parental Guidance Levels. The findings of the study were that 30% of the Disney movies in the sample contained a character connected with probably a mental illness. The characters shared a few likenesses, for example; they were Caucasian, male, single, additionally, and they had a tendency to threaten different characters. The 66% of mentally ill person's characters in the study were rough and very aggressive. On the other hand, 64% of different characters feared them. They were rejected by the society as well, thus the stigma representations. Moreover, the study directed by Lawson and Fouts (2004), Wahl et al. (2003) found that numerous negative remarks were given to rationally sick people in the movies. These marks likewise included expressions for example, "insane,"psycho," and "neurotic." Both studies demonstrate how children's Disney movies illustrate mentally challenged people.

The representation from Disney movies instills a mentality in children that mad and mentally ill people are not normal people in the society. These facilitate the stigma among the mentally challenged individuals.

These negative films that are portrayed by Disney movies stick with children as they grow up and consequently have an adverse impact on their level of stigmatizations as they grow into older ages.

Stigma in children's programming

Children programming has in one way or the other led to the stigmatization of children within the society that they form part of. The children face stigmatization as a result of the special abilities that they acquire due to the programming process that they are subjected towards. The programming system might expose the children to some unique mental illness that make them possesses unusual behavior (Castle, 2004). This has been some of the major cause of stigma in children undergoing programming. Stigma is bad social effects that can make someone feel neglected. Stigma makes people view children who are undergoing programming in a negative manner especially because they are associated with negative factors such as mental illness.

These children are believed to experience stigma in various locations among them their local community where they live, their homes, the schools they attend, the churches they go, the health care facilities they are attended to when unhealthy and more importantly those resources centers that they meet with their fellow children who are normal. In many cases, it has been reported that such children have been denied their fundamental rights like education and access to healthcare facilities simply because they appear to be unique from the rest of the children. This has seen negative effects observed in the vulnerable group of children such as other children fearing these children with unique abilities simply because they operate differently. Another outward effect that has been seen is the verbal and the abuse of the children physically by the people around them. As a result of these factors, these children belonging to this group usually feel vulnerable and in most cases lose morale, confidence, and self-esteem. Cases have been reported in the past of these children being withdrawn from the society by them being isolated totally. This has, in turn, led to several physiological factors among the children such as depression and withdrawal among other factors. The final factor that these children are said to have undergone is inhuman in one way (Robinson, & Dhar, 2016). The children under programming have been seen escaping from the spot where they are encountering stigma and hating that point in totality. This may include the children running away from their homes in case they are being stigmatized by family and even ending up sleeping on the streets as those turn out to be the only homes where people dont view them negatively. It is important to be noted that these vulnerable children have the fundamental rights of being handled in a normal and similar manner to the normal children. On the off chance that a given child is dealt with contrastingly in light of the fact that they have a place with a specific gathering, they are being victimized. This is against their human rights.

As we learn how stigma that happens in children programming, it is very essential that the procedures and what ought to be done are outlined in a clear and brief manner. It is essential that laws that ensure that stigma against childrens programming is reduced drastically are formulated and implemented to help people accept these children despite their presumed mental illness. It is important that local advocacy is conducted to help tackle stigma by explaining that the children might appear mentally ill by they are not. Lastly and most importantly, these children should have established programs that give them psychological support where necessary.


Lawson, A., &Fouts, G. (2004). MentalIllness in Disney AnimatedFilms. Canadian PsychiatricAssociation, 49(1), 310-314.

Wahl, O.F., Wood, A.; Zaveri, P., Drapalski,A., and Mann, B. (2003).Mental illnessdepiction in children's films.Journal ofCommunity Psychology, 31(6), 553-560.

BIBLIOGRAPHY \l 1033 Charanee. (2015, February 1). Retrieved from Curiosity and Creation.

Pernicano, K. L. (2013). Postmodern Madness in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland; 'A mad, crazy, wonderful idea'.

Castle, S. (2004). Rural children's attitudes to people with HIV/AIDS in Mali: the causes of stigma. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 6(1), 1-18.

Robinson, C. & Dhar, P. (2016). Welfare Stigma and Childrens Behavior. Int Adv Econ Res.

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