When we think of famous geek gals, it tends to be anime superstars, dynamic superheroes, and brainy adventurers. We see them in technicolor on screens and dashing across pages of our favorite manga, comics, and books, and we want to be them. They are bright, they are bold, and they are breaking new frontiers!
In fact, geek gals are not a new phenomena. Throughout time, before there were screens to watch, there were geek gals adventuring and fighting the good fight in classic literature, myths, and legends. They are the originals that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers admired and who became the stepping stones for our geek gals of today. We shall call these female forbearers our Classic Geek Gals.
I’d like to introduce to you my favorite Classic Geek Gal: Lewis Carroll’s Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (first book) and Through the Looking-Glass (second book).
So … who is Alice?
“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle!” -Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Most people familiar with the character of Alice think of either Disney’s 1951 animated film Alice in Wonderland, which mostly follows Carroll’s first book with a few excerpts from the second book, or Tim Burton’s (also Disney) more recent live action and CGI combo film of the same name, which is only loosely inspired by Carroll’s first book. Both adaptations set up a plot where a girl named Alice sees a white rabbit, follows it down a hole into a wondrous new world, and has great adventures with animals and objects that dress, speak, and act like people. She is challenged by the other characters who she, in turn, challenges, all the while making her way through this strange universe in pursuit of a goal.
Sounds a lot like other female heroes, right? But, don’t take my summary for it. Let’s dig a little deeper into what really qualifies Alice as a Classic Geek Gal.
She has an adventure.
“How brave they’ll all think me at home!” -Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
In both books, Alice willingly chases after the adventure, venturing down different paths and interacting with extraordinary creatures. She doesn’t cry for a way home; instead, she asks others how to get to the next part of her journey. Down rabbit holes, swimming in seas, hiking through woods, and even in the middle of a battle, Alice is evaluating her surroundings and using her resources to complete her mission. While she might pause for a rest or feel frustrated, she never turns back and is always, always moving forward.
She has curiosity … and follows it.
“… it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life!” -Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Alice’s curiosity is such a driving force of her personality and her adventures that it is no wonder that her phrase “Curiouser and curiouser!” has become synonymous with her character. This curiosity not only leads her down new paths, it also introduces her to other personalities … most of whom have the dubious gift of reciting poetry for her. By asking these characters questions, she gathers clues about her journey and learns to question her own assumptions. In fact, without Alice asking questions, there would be no story at all.
She bucks authority.
“I don’t want to be anybody’s prisoner. I want to be a queen.” -Alice from Through the Looking Glass
The authorities in both books are comical characters who have little sense, exaggerated personalities, and are often easily swayed by others. While Alice’s propriety has her using her manners at the beginning of situations, she also loses patience with the absurdity of the authority figures she encounters. “Stuff and nonsense!” she shouts at the Queen of Hearts in the courtroom, not caring if she loses her head in the process. Those around her are constantly telling her what to do, but eventually she chooses her own next steps to reach her end goal.
Ultimately she acts ahead of her time.
“Consider what a great girl you are. Consider what a long way you’ve come today.” -White Queen from Through the Looking Glass
An important point to note in all of this is the time the story was written: 1865. Alice might seem like any other normal girl with dreams in her head if we placed her in our times, but in the 1800s? She was radical. Girls did not have adventures or ask questions or say, “nonsense!” to those in charge. They were lucky if they were allowed their own opinions on anything other than fashion or housekeeping. That is what makes Alice such a bright and bold upstart and a character who stands out for her time. She didn’t stay at home quietly sitting by the fire like she was told. She went out and had ADVENTURES.
Alice is my Classic Geek Gal.
You probably have your own ideas about what constitutes a Classic Geek Gal, ideas that have been molded and shaped by your perspectives and experiences. Whether you agree with my criteria, I bet if I asked you who inspired you to cross that line from reality to imagination and to believe bigger than you are, a figure would pop into your mind. The truth is, we all have our own Classic Geek Gals that showed us what we could become if we just believed enough. Who is your Classic Geek Gal?
“What – is – this?” he said at last.
“This is a child!” Haigha replied eagerly, coming in front of Alice to introduce her (…).
“I always thought they were fabulous monsters!” said the Unicorn. “Is it alive?”
“It can talk,” said Haigha, solemnly.
The Unicorn looked dreamily at Alice, and said, “Talk, child.”
Alice could not help her lips curling up into a smile as she began: “Do you know, I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too! I never saw one alive before!”
“Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the Unicorn, “If you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”
“Yes, if you like,” said Alice.
Featured image credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash