Lolita is famous for iconicity: there are so many characters, prints, and styles that become inseparable from the masses' opinion of "lolita". There are always haters, of course, but the only real impact they have on the general opinion is to get annoyed by it- no matter what anyone says, if the lolita population has declared something iconic, it's here to stay.
I was recently reading an article by fellow lolita blogger Raegan about how, despite the fact that so many people call Alice (Of Wonderland fame) their lolita inspiration, she herself considers Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz to be the ultimate lolita character. Now, I know that Raegan wasn't eschewing Alice or those who love her, but it occurred to me that many people chose "camps" when it comes to lolita idols: Misako to the left, Mana to the right, and so on. I find this interesting: while reading the aforementioned article, I realized that these two particular pop culture heroines particularly have much more in common than most realize at first glance
Think about it: A spunky, curious young girl finds herself, entirely by accident, in a completely upside-down world. After a brief scene of falling through a confusing landscape that seems entirely influenced by various narcotics, she is immediately set on a journey that tests all of her might and drive to return home. She is helped by various creatures of a curious nature, unlike any she has ever met, and learns that even in this magical land, not everyone is a good guy. Eventually, through her own wit and pluck, she finds herself waking up and realizing that it was all a dream.
Who was I just describing? Was it Alice, or Dorothy? You tell me, because at this point, I don't even know! One can even look at their appearances. In the original Tenniel illustrations, Alice is drawn with brown, wavy hair. In the Disney version, she wears a blue dress with white accents and an iconic hair bow, though she's now blonde. Brown, wavy hair, or blue and white clothing? Either way, the parallels to Dorothy can definitely be established.
And their stories: Dorothy's method of transportation is a tornado, while Alice's is a tumble down the rabbit hole. Both are confronted during these scenes with the things in their own lives that confused them (Alice with concepts of latitude vs. longitude and thus the book-learning of grown ups, Dorothy with images of her horrid, witch-like neighbor). They both find themselves in a very odd landscape that bears similarities to their own, though still distinctly different. They are confronted with characters both to help (Dorothy's Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion to Alice's Cheshire Cat) and hinder them (The Wicked Witch of the West compared to the Queen of Hearts, both female characters in a position of power which they wantonly abuse) on their journey, which is winding and twisting and sometimes puts them in situations that are very, very uncomfortable and dangerous (The apple orchard and dark forest of OZ, and basically the entirety of Wonderland). Eventually, after a confrontation with authority, they both learn that they both had the power to go home all along: All they had to do was wake up. After doing so, they return to their lives with a new sense of confidence and maturity. The books themselves also have undertones that the young female characters have no way of picking up on: Carroll might have been writing his story under a drugged haze of pedophilic lust, and Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was seen as a political commentary on a Victorian society that he disapproved of.
Of course, these aren't the only characters that lolitas identify with; the character one calls a fashion inspiration is very personal and may not, in fact, have anything really to do with fashion. However, if you look at some other common characters (Disney's Belle, for example, someone I personally identify with strongly), you will see definite parallels: almost all of them face some kind of confusing or terrifying situation that tests their abilities, from which they gracefully rise after using mainly their wit and perseverance to fight the bad guys, taking a valuable lesson about morality and the importance of trusting in themselves. I think that's why some lolitas need icons so much- it isn't a question of needing someone to turn to for fashion inspiration (though that helps); it's someone to remind them that there are others who have suffered at the hands of the "bad guys," the evils of their own society, and, instead of simply accepting their circumstances, fought for the life that they knew was best for them. Now, to the common person, these fairytales may seem a little odd to identify with. However, when you're walking down the street being catcalled or pointed at or laughed at, sometimes it helps to know that you're not the only one who's had to face the aggression of people around you, and it can be encouraging to remember that not only did these girls beat the baddies, but after all the fighting was over, they found their way home, knowing that they had proven their worth and their right to the life they fought for.