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.