Don’t get me wrong, I am totally included in that “we”. Peter Pan is…just plain seductive to be honest. But why?
Because if you’ve ever read the book, and even in most film and stage adaptations you can see it, he’s completely ego-centric and pretty sexist.
So why is there a statue dedicated to him in Hyde Park, which I’ve visited multiple times? Why is he the star of a classic children’s book, as well as more adaptations than I want to count? Why do we want to be him, or fall in love with him?
Peter ends up alone. Everyone he loves leaves him in the end, even the Lost Boys, his faithful companions. Even they see the value of responsibility and relationships eventually. I suppose Peter has Tinkerbell by his side at the end, but considering she can’t speak…well maybe he doesn’t care about that because he is perfectly happy to express himself to himself about himself forever.
Despite the fact that his mortal enemy has been defeated at the end of the book, Peter still does not want to move on with his life. He’s completely static – stubbornly static. In reality, he accomplishes absolutely nothing, because he hasn’t learned a thing. So Captain Hook is dead and gone. So are all of his friends, yet he still hides in his little treehouse, flying around and picking fights on the occasion, unattached, unconcerned, and eventually, unnoticed.
These were my thoughts this morning at work, because why not. And here are some conclusions I came to.
- We love him because he says these seductive little things that we either want to hear, or wish we had the wit or guts to say:
- Because every actor who has ever portrayed him ever has this certain something in their eyes and on their lips that is just…mmmm.
- This is the actual reason why I think we love him. Because of what he did for Wendy. Before Peter, Wendy was afraid of changing, afraid of growing up. She wanted to stay in her protected, magical fantasy land of childhood forever. But then Peter took her away to where that was real, and she could stay a child forever. And at first, it was paradise. I mean, mermaids, Indians, pirates? What’s better? But after a while, Wendy began to realize that she wasn’t who she wanted to be. What she really wanted was to be a wife and a mother. And she couldn’t get that from Peter. She recognized that to get what she truly wanted, she would have to embrace change. She learned to love the idea of change, to understand that change is the only way to achieve anything, or feel good about yourself, or do something important. She had to change. Once Wendy caught that fire, it spread to her brothers and all the Lost Boys. But Peter was impervious. He needed to be, because Wendy couldn’t complete her change with him there. He is the symbol of innocence and childhood, of status quo. And clearly, Wendy can’t move forward with status quo hanging around. So she left him. But, and this is the biggest, most important but, she never forgot what it was like to be with him. Everyone else did, but Wendy didn’t. She remembered to keep the child Peter Pan inside her heart, which gave her a fuller, healthier perspective the rest of her life. It gave her a better chance at happiness.
So although we as humans want to resist change with all our might, Peter Pan helps us see that change is good, but even better if we keep the sweet parts of ourselves alive in our hearts despite and throughout those changes.