Fuck Peter Pan (A Clothing Article)
Do you find sometimes that there is something that everyone else likes and you feel you’re supposed to like it but you just don’t?
I always felt that way about Peter Pan.
When I was little, the only movies we had were bootleg VHS tapes that a family friend made for us. One of them was Disney’s Cinderella which is just about as perfect an animated movie as you can get.
Infrequently my family would rent movies from the video store. As a little kid, I would naturally gravitate towards the Disney movies. A few times I chose Peter Pan.
I remember watching it and already being vaguely aware of the more famous scenes (flying over London, Captain Hook and the croc) and feeling like I SHOULD be enjoying it more than I was. I was a little boy and the protagonist flies around fighting pirates. What could be cooler than that?
It wasn’t until I was an adult and watching the movie with my children when it dawned on me.
Peter Pan is a terrible character.
But it goes deeper than that. The entire story of Peter Pan is a parent’s worst nightmare.
Before we get into that, let’s break down why Peter, as a character, is utter garbage.
Let’s start with the obvious: He is a total dick to Wendy. Wendy is the person whom he is trying to get to accompany him back to Neverland so she can act as the Lost Boys’ mother. He has been sitting outside her window listening to her tell stories of him to her little brothers.
So why, when he appears in their room looking for his shadow, does he address her as “girl”? Does he really not know Wendy’s name? And he basically treats her like a slave as she is trying to sew his shadow onto his feet.
I get that the whole point of Peter Pan is that he is supposed to be immature, but I have never seen an adaptation of the story that paints him in anything but a terrible light.
Wendy is ten times the character Peter is. Come to think of it, most of the other characters are better than Peter.
Wendy is fiercely protective of her brothers, saves Peter’s life no less than three times, and even comes this close to murdering some mermaids (merder?) who tease her and almost pull her into the water.
And can we talk about Tiger Lily? She is literally prepared to drown without saying a word before she gives Hook any information. Yes, she is saved by Peter, but only because Wendy saved Peter moments before.
Now, here is the deeper reason I don’t like Peter Pan. It’s quite literally nightmare fuel for adults.
The other night my wife and I watched the newest iteration of the story, Peter Pan & Wendy, on Disney+. Usually, we watch old movies but we sometimes like to watch kids’ movies in order to vet them for our own children.
After watching it, I couldn’t get over how tragic the whole thing is and what a terrifying concept it is.
Think about it: You put your kids to bed. You think they’re totally safe. You might even have a big guard dog. But they are taken away in the middle of the night. They are lost. Gone from their beds. You never know what happened to them. You’re just left wondering, “What happened to my baby?”
In time their memories of you fade until they don’t remember you at all.
Good grief. How is this not a horror movie?
Certain movies really affect you differently when you’re a parent, huh? Take Finding Nemo for example, or as I like to call it, Protective Parent Was Right All Along. Or An American Tail. I can’t watch movies about dads losing their kids.
It really is true that becoming a parent means allowing your heart to walk around outside your body.
The reason I am mentioning all of this is because I felt compelled to have a discussion with my sons while watching Peter Pan with them. I pointed out to them that Peter was rude and insensitive. I pointed out that Wendy was caring and brave. I said to them that I didn’t like Peter very much and that I thought Wendy was much cooler.
I felt a need to be intentional in that moment. I knew I needed to use this movie as a teaching tool, especially with little boys who might naturally gravitate more towards Peter than Wendy.
I didn’t want them to have that same feeling I did when I watched the movie as a little kid. The “wait a second… I don’t really like this very much, but everyone else seems to like it so…. I guess I like it, too” feeling.
I wanted to alert them to the little voice inside them that tells them not to follow the pack.
I used Peter Pan as a way to illustrate how to think critically about what they are watching and to not just passively accept what’s fed to them. I WANT them to question what they watch or what they read and form their own opinions about the characters.
It’s not just Peter Pan, either. I’ve done this with Peppa Pig, Thomas the Tank Engine, Blaze and the Monster Machines and other shows my sons like to watch.
I know you’re probably thinking that watching TV with me is a real drag.
And it is! It totally sucks watching TV with me! I hope my sons think that, too!
But can’t we also apply this same concept to other aspects of our lives? Do you sometimes feel like you are swimming against the current a little bit?
If so, embrace it. That’s what makes you interesting. That’s what makes you dynamic. That’s what makes you stylish.
When it comes to style, there are plenty of popular things I don’t like. Going sockless, shorts, Gurkha trousers, Birkenstocks, double four-in-hands, salmon dial watches, two-inch trouser cuffs, horse-bit loafers, tan shoes, “fun” socks. I just can’t make myself like these things, even if they are popular and it seems like everyone else likes them.
But that’s ok. It means I might look a little different from the pack. Or maybe it means I look a little bit boring.
Really, what it means is that I am true to myself. Most importantly, my sons will see that.
Sure, they will consume media, as everyone does, and that media (be it TV, music, or movies) will affect them and partially shape their thoughts and feelings.
But hopefully they will be able to form their own opinions more easily by remembering that Daddy thought that Peter Pan sucked.