Peter Pan, WTF

Might take some heat for this one, but here goes…

As a tater-tot, I apparently had a flashbulb memory of Disney’s Peter Pan. I always assumed I’d seen it, like maybe when I was 6 or younger. Maybe because of those little picture books in doctors’ offices combined with the fact that I’d seen SOME version of Peter Pan (I know with some degree of certainty that it was not the Tim Curry Peter Pan and the Pirates on Fox, because when I first saw that when I was in daycare, I was mentally comparing it against some other Peter Pan I had seen) I thought I’d watched it at least once. Well, turns out I was wrong.

I love the movie Hook, and so does my girlfriend. Once while watching it, I mentioned that it had been ages since I’d actually seen Peter Pan. With some reservation, she informed me that she had it on VHS, but didn’t really like it much so didn’t watch it often. After watching it with her, I can see why.

It was kind of creepy and a lot more sexualized than I would’ve expected from a children’s cartoon from the 50s. No one thing would do more than raise an eyebrow on its own, but the pervasiveness when paired with the themes adds up throughout. Tink checking herself out in mirrors, getting her hips stuck in the keyhole after implication that she thinks her butt’s too big, ultimately getting tossled about and landing spread eagle was uncomfortable to watch. Follow that up with the rest of the movie being about Peter Pan pretty much going from girl to girl, doing everything to make Wendy jealous while being completely oblivious himself, saying it’s not a good couples movie is kind of an understatement. “Why aren’t you okay with the fact that my topless mermaid friend just tried to kill you? 😀 ” (If it weren’t for the sexist “Squa get um firewood”, I’d almost say that the uber-stereotyped indians were one of the less offensive parts of movie, for what that’s worth.)

The thing that irks me is that I almost feel like there is a character arc for Wendy that could be completed in a satisfactory way, until it’s torpedoed in the last scene. For a minute, let’s look at Peter Pan through the lense of Wendy as the protagonist. The bone we’re given to chew on in Peter Pan is the idea of growing up. Wendy doesn’t want to grow up, John and Michael don’t want to grow up, Peter Pan and the Lost Boys don’t want to grow up. From what we see of Wendy’s parents, being a grownup is a life of responsibility, disappointment, anger and frustration. Peter Pan takes Wendy to a place she’ll never grow up, seemingly fulfilling her wish… And proceeds to be a colossal dick to her the entire time.

Not growing up means not only not having responsibilities or being responsible for your actions, but having the freedom to be childish and self-centered without real consequence. Children in Neverland simply get to feed their Id with no thoughts to the consequences or feelings of others (don’t forget how quickly, and with smiling faces, the Lost Boys were about to rush and sign up to be Pirates with Hook after they’d been captured), and this is where the actual tension of the story mounts: Wendy, who had proclaimed she didn’t want to grow up, is beginning to see how harmful the selfishness of childhood can be, and she herself feels responsibility for John and Michael, whose heads she filled with stories of Peter Pan and Pirates. She wants to go home. Neverland is a crappy place full of crappy people and she’s done with it. No one in Neverland has a shred of empathy. When Wendy gets home, she says that she’s finally ready to start growing up… And that Peter Pan is absolutely wonderful.

If you are with a girl and you show off how close you are with a bunch of half-naked women who treat her like crap, have a female best friend who hates her, and make kissies with another girl in front of her, she’s going to be out on you faster than Cybil Shepherd walked out on DiNiro in Taxi Driver, not proclaiming how wonderful you are.

 

A follow up…: A few examples of how some fantasy settings handle ‘non-white’ races

This list will be by no means exhaustive or even particularly detailed. But I hope it will be more interesting than those “1d10 Names of random garbage” posts that I see everywhere 🙂

Just off the top of my head…

Order of the Stick: OoTS takes place in a Multi-ethnic world that for most purposes seems colorblind, at least insofar as humans are concerned, though racial tension is explored a bit through the goblins (green) and hobgoblins (yellow). Features both non-white protagonists and antagonists. Also depicts a number of cross-racial romantic couplings.

Earthsea: Multiple ethnicities exist, though each culture is homogeneous in the pockets they’re indigenous to, except in certain cosmopolitan areas. Features a non-white protagonist and a black side-kick. White people are pretty much villainous vikings through most of the series.

Middle Earth: Oh, my. Despite some claims as such, Orcs are never explicitly said to be “black”, just that they are all (probably, even Tolkien admitted having reservations, as a Christian man, in claiming that an entire race of people was evil, irredeemable and incapable of good) evil and speak the Black Tongue. Easterlings are never explicitly defined as Hun or Asiatic or such, but they’re all pretty much evil barbarians. Same with the Haradrim, except one gathers that they’re Moorish or Arabian and universally opposed to Civilization (with a capital C). I’m pretty sure the Wainriders are Gypsies.

Elder Scrolls: Lots of races here, and a lot of them are pretty racist against each other. But no race is universally defined by their racial traits, at least as personality goes. It is interesting, though, that there doesn’t seem to be much, if any, racial mixing (with the exception of the Bretons, who are apparently all half-elven?). I wonder if there are any black people that aren’t Redguards? Or if there could be a black imperial? “I’m from the imperial province, born and raised!” Too bad, you’re black, so you’re a Redguard.

Dragonlance: Were there black people in Dragonlance? People were pretty uncomfortable around Raistlin because of the color of his skin, but I’m not sure that counts.

Prydain: I’m pretty sure everyone in this was either welsh or a goblin.

Children of Hurin

So, I’m finally getting around to reading the Children of Hurin. Like most of the writings of the first age, there is a lack of immediacy to the tales, and something of a deep required foreknowledge of the subject matter to appreciate the setting, at least compared to the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. To an extent, I feel this is exacerbated by all of the kings of the Noldor whose names start with F. Still, once you get past the first chapter, which is a lot of recap on what elf kings ruled where, did what, and were killed in what ways, the story of Turin becomes a fairly quick paced and enjoyable narrative history.

I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks for me with the First Age is the shortcomings of the Map of Beleriand. That Angband, the site of many of the most memorable scenes and battles (the 400 year siege, Battle of Unnumbered Tears, Beren stealing a Silmaril), is nowhere on the map of Beleriand caused me no end of frustration and speculation.  It’s… somewhere north of Dorthonian in the desert Anfauglith? Imagine if, in Lord of the Rings, Mordor were off the map in some nebulous “East of Gondor…” off the map?

I do give Chris a lot of credit in this volume, as the geopolitical boundaries of the First Age have probably never been presented in a clearer or more concise fashion outside of Appendices and supplemental writings. I’d have to give the Silmarillion a re-reading for comparison sake, but I feel that the regional scope of the narrative is much clearer in Children of Hurin. I suppose one of the difficulties is that since the First Age covers such a long period, the geopolitical shifts are not documented as well as a history map geek such as myself would like. This is a bit of a tangent here, but I’d love to see a period by period map documenting migration of the tribes of elves and humans and the southward push of the orcs from the north. I’m sure this exists somewhere that I haven’t bothered to look because I don’t have money to burn on Tolkiencyclopedias.

But anyway… Children of Hurin covers a period during which a great deal of the changes took place, beginning with the end of the 400 year siege of Angband, which turned the north into a wasteland and Dorthonian became sort of a pro-Mordor, as the men were driven out and Orcs took over. Who brought their armies and from where, when Maedhros and the other elves and men and dwarves launch their failed attempt at revenge during the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, gives a nice crash course of Politics and Kingdoms of Beleriand 101.

Can I recommend Children of Hurin as a high fantasy for someone who’s new to Tolkien? Honestly, no, it’s not a particularly good introduction. What it IS good for is someone who enjoyed the Hobbit and/or Lord of the Rings, wants more, but still finds the Silmarillion and the Lost and Unfinished Tales of Middle Earth a bit impenetrable (the Quenta was quite a jump from LotR for my 11 year old self) or rough around the edges (“Hahaha! you mean the Noldor used to be gnomes in the first drafts? lame!”).  Would I watch a Peter Jackson movie based on this?  Probably.  Yeah.

(Also, hell yeah!)

Delivals, the Port of

The final stretch of the Long Road’s overland route to Polaris begins at Delivals, the Gatlia and the Cirsovan Empire’s northernmost port city on the Dusksea.  Delivals serves little purpose in the way of trade that Syflanis does not fulfill better.  The only difference is that Delivals serves as a port for Polaris.

The foothills of the Gatlian mountains stretch all the way to the coast of the Dusksea, and while it would not have been difficult to build overland passage directly toward Polaris, with an existing port at Syflanis, it made more sense for trade over the seas.  Thus, after Polaris made herself known to the empire and provided the emperor and his cartographers with the information to find the remote city, it was determined that the cape of Delivals was an ideal location for a port (the emissaries had warned not to build too far up the coast, as Polaris had once been a port city, but was now land-locked by the ice sheet that had made its way down the coast), due south of the Dreaming City.

Incoming goods largely consist of tools, textiles, food and, of course, raw crystal.  Finished crystal is one of the only exports.  Though Shuul is not openly traded in the city, it is possible to find.  Occasionally a dock-hand may be found passed out behind a warehouse with an empty bottle of the stuff nearby, though any dreams he has had will be those of your normal drunk who’s found a spirit too strong for his temperament.

Thievery along the Long Road begins in Delivals. Smaller works of finished crystal are among the first victims; anything that can be easily pocketed is fair game for sticky fingers.  Larger goods fair better until they are out upon the seas.

Delivals, the Isle of Four Emperors and Syflanis make what is sometimes referred to in Gatlia as the Pirates’ Triangle.  In order to reduce piracy, traders have made considerable effort to maintain a continuous stream of ships between Delivals and Syflanis, ensuring that no ship is too far from aid. Ships sailing from Syflanis to Corineaus in Karkuras are more vulnerable to pirates than those in the Pirate’s Triangle, despite the bay’s foreboding name.

The crime and theft in Delivals breeds a secondary market for finished crystal and other contraband.  Some docks have agreements in place with the bay pirates, allowing for certain shipments to “disappear”.  Off the books sale of Polaran goods in Delivals is a profitable business for which the local officials and nobles often look the other way, fearing that their own involvement and graft might come to light.

Delivals is represented in the Gatlian council by a Popular Representative and a Lordly representative appointed by the Baron.  A sign that the attitude towards piracy and corruption in Delivals might finally be changing is that both the people’s and the nobles’ councilmen have spoken out in support of initiatives to crack down on pirates, throwing their weight behind the up and coming young Percival Haruun in Syflanis.