My fifth grade students are working on our annual class play. They have chosen to rewrite the classic story “Alice in Wonderland”. It’s so much fun to watch them in action, just letting the creativity flow. I love this time of year, when my sole responsibility is crowd control.
Of course, I am always amazed at how much the world has changed since I was in the fifth grade, and how the kids’ perceptions differ from mine. (They have written a mariachi band into the play.)
For example, did you know that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp did a completely creepy “Alice” movie? Huh. I didn’t. My students wanted to base our script on THAT version rather than Lewis Carroll’s. So I decided to watch it.
Oh. My. God. I got as far as Johnny’s White Rabbit, with his horrible pinkish orange eyes. Then I hit that clicker so fast that the whole TV just shut right down.
Of course, the next day the kids had a field day laughing at my sensitivity when I explained my reaction. They find me very quaint.
So they tried to explain the Burton story, telling me all about how the Jabberwocky is a giant monster that Alice has to slaughter in the end. This is the story that they all know. This is how they think it goes.
Has everything in the whole wide world changed, I wonder? Even the classic old stories, once known and loved by every child, have been changed and rewritten and done over.
Is nothing sacred?
Sometimes I feel as if I have fallen down the rabbit hole.
I mean, look at the way everyone is suddenly raising chickens. Now I am a confirmed and dedicated locavore, and I love the fact that I am able to buy fresh eggs and local, organic chickens. But when I was a kid, the only people who had actual chickens in the back yard were those hopelessly backward, unsophisticated immigrants. The rest of us thought they were….well….quaint.
I feel like I’m down the rabbit hole.
And what about plastic, for goodness sake! Remember “The Graduate”? (Of course you do). The middle aged, successful businessman advises a young Dustin Hoffman to “get into plastics” because it is the material of the future. Back in the 60’s (when I was in fifth grade), having things made of plastic was a sign of modernity. I remember clearly when my tin “Beatles” lunchbox with its warped metal clasp was replaced with a bright blue plastic “Lost in Space” lunchbox. I was so incredibly cool.
Now everyone hates plastic. It is made from petroleum, it stays in the environment for a billion years and there is a big pile of it swirling around in the Pacific Ocean. Plastic is hopelessly old fashioned and out dated.
And let’s think about politics for a moment, shall we?
I remember a time when conservative Americans believed in the motto, “America. Love it or leave it.” I remember when it was the middle class, white, conservative “majority” that used to vilify the hippy radicals who marched in protest against the Vietnam War. When young people stuck flowers into the gun muzzles of the National Guard, the conservative base called them “unAmerican” and “disrespectful.”
I remember “My country right or wrong.”
Now? If you want to call yourself a real conservative, you have to believe that you and your friends have a right and a duty to own big guns that can shoot a million rounds. Why? So you can fight back against those government agents if they come to your door.
Rabbit hole in a big way.
And finally, there is the recent loss of sensitivity to sexual misbehavior. See, for my entire life, a public figure could pretty much say goodbye to his career if he was caught red-handed in an affair. I mean, we all knew that behind closed doors powerful men were enjoying their free time in the company of beautiful women. But it couldn’t be right out there in public! Remember the incredible outcry when Ted Kennedy was caught cheating after the death of his young and beautiful campaign worker? The uproar was more about her presence in the Senator’s car than it was about her tragic death. And I know you remember Monica Lewinsky…..
So how do you explain Mark Sanford? The famous A.T. “hiker” was reelected after admitting that he was in Argentina with his girlfriend while collecting his public paycheck. He was reelected. They knew about his lies, his cheating and his attempts to cover it all up, and they voted for him anyway. Really???
And then there is the skinny, smirking face of the man with the unfortunate name. First he sends photos of his pride and joy out into the Twitterverse, loses his Congressional seat and publicly hangs his head in well earned shame. Then he runs for Mayor of New York.
This is not the world I grew up in, for sure. Alice, we are down the rabbit hole.