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Beauty, Blood and Peter Pan

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Peter Pan is a dick.

Despite green-stockinged Disney confections, Sandy Dennis on strings, and the creepy conceits of stunted man-children, “the Pan” (as he’s called by his nemesis Captain Hook) is a reckless homicidal sociopath whose behavior can generously be described as callous. Like so many of our most durable pop-cultural creations (Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Alice in Wonderland), Peter Pan arose from things unspoken in proper Victorian society, yet speaks eloquently a century or so after his creator’s death. And one of the reasons behind Pan’s eloquence is that “adventure” is an inherently selfish — yet irrepressibly essential — pursuit.

For Pan’s creator J.M. Barrie, adventure was a boy’s game. His “Wendy Darling” was a pale stand-in for feminine propriety, a mommy figure bracketed by the primal allure of Tiger Lily and the bitchiness of Tinker Bell. It was boys, not girls, who had adventures in Barrie’s Neverland… and yet, it’s the real-life girls who have gravitated (so to speak) toward Barrie’s creation in recent years. From the teen-cusp sensuality of P. J. Hogan’s film Peter Pan (2003) to S.J. Tucker’s “Wendy Trilogy” song-cycle and its spin-off fan club, The Lost Girls Pirate Academy (2004 and onward), Wendy has stepped center-stage. These adaptations have turned the Tale of the Boy Who Never Grew Up into female rites-of-passage.

Read more: Beauty, Blood and Peter Pan

Grim, Goth Neverland

The Child Thief


And again, we see the Pan — savior, scourge, and child-thief. Stealing kids from the mundane realm, he spirits them off to a world of adventure and death. As J.M. Barrie himself notes in the unexpurgated Peter Pan: “The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out…” Thins them out. From those words, Gerald Brom conjures up the bloody side of Neverland; in his reinvention of Peter Pan, Brom turns the crowing Lost Boy into an eerie psychopomp.

Read more: Grim, Goth Neverland

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