Peter Pan, the mischievous young boy who never grows up, brings Wendy Darling and her two brothers to the mystical island of Neverland. Wendy happily plays the role of Mother to Peter and the other Lost Boys. Magic and adventure abound in Neverland — the Lost Boys hunt the Redskins, the Pirates hunts the Redskins and the Lost Boys, and the tick-tocking crocodile hunts Captain Hook.
The original Peter Pan is more magnetic, more magical, and more menacing than any of the adaptions I’ve seen. Peter is both the biggest surprise and the highlight. He is alluring and free-spirited, and his life represents all the wonder and imagination that we lose when we grow up. But he’s also presumptuous, arrogant, even tyrannical, and cares more about adventure than people. Part-boy and part-nature, Peter is a true betwixt-and-between creature who can fly, speak to fairies and animals, but who also desperately needs a mother.
The entire story is charmingly magical, and even before Peter shows up, the Darling mother arranges her children’s thoughts as they sleep, keeps a kiss in the right-hand corner of her mouth, and leaves night-lights as her own eyes to watch over her children in the dark.
On the other hand, the outdated and ignorant portrayal of both women and Redskins is outright offensive. Wendy is completely fulfilled by coming to Neverland to be a mother to Peter and his gang, which includes cooking, cleaning, administering medicine, and darning clothing. She desperately wants Peter’s affections, but he has none for her. In fact, all the women have a desperate want of Peter, from Tinkerbell to Tiger Lily to the Mermaids, and none of the girls get along with each other because of their jealousy. Tiger Lily, the warrior princess of the Piccaninny tribe, is beautiful but dangerous, as her kind lays their ears to the ground, vent unearthly yells, prepare for scalping, and beat war drums. They even call Peter “the great white father”.
Despite being a product of its time, I still love Peter Pan. It’s bewitchingly beautiful and hauntingly tragic.
Recommended for fans of magical realism, or anyone who love a Pan movie. Talk to your kids about the racism.
“Peter was not quite like other boys; but he was afraid at last. A tremour ran through him, like a shudder passing over the sea; but on the sea one shudder follows another till there are hundreds of them, and Peter felt just the one. Next moment he was standing erect on the rock again, with that smile on his face and a drum beating within him. It was saying, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.”