Whether or not you agree with the assessment, this article is a list of all the reasons why we should take a look at Neverneverland from a slightly different perspective.
Now, when I say ‘Neverneverland’, I mean ‘Collective Consciousness concept of Neverland’ – which, like the Bible, may, in some ways, be directly contradictory – the residence of an immortal youth who lives just about as far away as some of the quickest pass-bys of the Moon.
Idolizing tropes in a blind way can be very dangerous. There is a need to shed some light on Peter Pan’s behavioral problems, the same way some have already shed light on ‘Beauty and the Beast’ trivializing/ romanticizing Stockholm Syndrome:
Feminist scholars have long argued [‘Beauty and the Beast’] sends a terrible message to audiences (especially young girls) by basically showcasing an abusive and power-imbalanced relationship as some kind of ideal fairy-tale romance. (Movie Fone News)
…speaking of ‘ideal fairy-tale romance’…
- A disregard for laws and social mores (1)
- A disregard for the rights of others (2)
- A failure to feel remorse or guilt (3)
- A tendency to display violent behavior (4)
Keep these four in mind while reading the remainder of this article.
SUPERFICIAL WIT AND CHARM
As feral of a man-child as Peter sometimes conducts himself, he is also quite the gentleman, so it seems:
Peter could be exceedingly polite also, having learned the grand manner at fairy ceremonies, and he rose and bowed to her beautifully. She was much pleased, and bowed beautifully to him from the bed (Barrie*, 32).
Peter, seeing this to be a good idea, at once pretended that it was his own. (Barrie, 87)
Even when he’s being a completely self-centered ass, everyone seems to adore Peter:
Alas, he had already forgotten that he owed his bliss to Wendy. He thought he had attached the shadow himself. “How clever I am!” he crowed rapturously, “oh, the cleverness of me!”
It is humiliating to have to confess that this conceit of Peter was one of his most fascinating qualities. To put it with brutal frankness, there never was a cockier boy. (Barrie, 34)
This motherfucker was trying to reattach his shadow (which, assuming we don’t suspend our disbelief, is pretty darn grandiose, if you think about it) with a bar of soap while crying like a bitch, just moments before. How does he make up for this?:
“Wendy,” he continued, in a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist, “Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”
Now Wendy was every inch a woman, though there were not very many inches, and she peeped out of the bed-clothes.
“Do you really think so, Peter?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I think it’s perfectly sweet of you,” she declared, “and I’ll get up again”…
Yes, you read that right – he fixes it by telling her exactly what he knows she wants to hear, exactly the way he knows she wants to hear it! Oh, but Peter’s not done, yet – watch how he easily convinces Wendy being just-short-of-a-live-in-slave to a bunch of runaway juvenile delinquents is a wonderful idea:
He had become frightfully cunning. “Wendy,” he said, “how we should all respect you.”
She was wriggling her body in distress. It was quite as if she were trying to remain on the nursery floor.
But he had no pity for her.
“Wendy,” he said, the sly one, “you could tuck us in at night.”
“None of us has ever been tucked in at night.”
“Oo,” and her arms went out to him.
“And you could darn our clothes, and make pockets for us. None of us has any pockets.”
How could she resist…
When Peter arrived at the Darling’s nursery window, he had no interest in Wendy whatsoever – if anything, he wanted the stories – he just so happened to chase his shadow into the nursery that evening. When he realizes how useful having a girl around would be, the Sweet Nothings come a-tumblin’ out.
The sociopath is a predator and has the ability to read a person better than anyone[.] Despite his warm charismatic [exterior], behind this lies a cold calculating mind, not inhibited by emotions. The sociopath will do lots of things to assess you, and to decide what you are worth, and if what you have to offer is what he needs. To the sociopath, a victim/target is no more than a tool to be used. (‘Dating a Sociopath‘ Official Website)
When a sociopath catches you in his sights, the first stage involves them finding out as much about you as humanly possible and mimicking your Perfect Mate. All the while, you’re being swept off your feet; still, things seem a little… off.
This scene from the first ‘Devil’s Carnival’ Movie Musical shows this type of human behavior in a much different light than the Disney conceptualization. (As it is a fable, it also comes with a moral: Lying To Yourself Is A Sin – Don’t fall into the Sociopath’s Spell of Gaslighting; Validate Yourself.)
A sociopath will mirror you, [w]hich means that he will reflect back to you, exactly who you are, or even who you think you are. (‘Dating a Sociopath’ Official Website)
Peter is SO good at doing those voices, don’tcha think? I mean, remember when he tricks his Nemesis’ First Mate into thinking the whole ship’s gonna get to go hog-wild on Hook’s Hooch Stash? Leaving Wendy to almost drown as he laughs – twice… the second time being after he almost forgets to save Tiger Lily from drowning.
Remember when he fit in so well with the Piccaninny Tribe (don’t get me started on that word) while allowing his “mother” to be used as a common serving wench? (Keeping her constantly having to protect her barely-not-a-toddler youngest brother from smoking a man’s dose of ‘Lord-Knows-What’ (probably tobacco) after worrying about flying tomahawks…)
…which, to be fair, you have to “be down” in Neverland. Victorian Nursery Babes are not really that into polyamory (or getting firewood while your faux-beau rubs noses with the lady of the hour); at least, not the ones who grow up to have husbands in the war and prudently decide to send their children to the countryside for safety.
What better way to feel important than by starting a society where you make up all the rules and everyone else has to do whatever you say, however long you say it for?
According to CSJ.org, here is a checklist of the characteristics of cults, along with some examples as to why Peter’s Gang could be considered more than just a group of youths trying to survive in the wilderness:
- The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
Peter never quite knew what twins were, and his band were not allowed to know anything he did not know, so these two were always vague about themselves, and did their best to give satisfaction by keeping close together in an apologetic sort of way. (Barrie, 66)
- Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
It was not in their nature to question when Peter ordered. (Barrie, 77)
- Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
I don’t know what you’d call ‘flying after sprinkling magic dust on yourself’, but it’s probably an allegory for ‘being intoxicated’.
- The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
Speaking of Double Standards, while Peter is allowed to assimilate into any culture or group of siblings he so chooses, no one is allowed to look like him, on pain of death. Seriously, it’s in the book and everything:
They are forbidden by Peter to look in the least like him, and they wear the skins of bears slain by themselves, in which they are so round and furry that when they fall they roll. They have therefore become very sure-footed. (Barrie, 65)
Dictating language? Oh, yeah –
It was only in Peter’s absence that they could speak of mother’s, the subject being forbidden by him as silly. (Barrie, 70)
- The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
I believe we’ve already covered the ‘Chief Flying Eagle’ thing. Not so much Messianic as just being the type to heap titles on himself – such as ‘Captain’ – or accept from others, in order to solidify the validity of his position.
They called Peter the Great White Father, prostrating themselves before him; and he liked this tremendously, so that it was not really good for him. (Barrie, 122)
- The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
You’re either a Sea Creature, a Beast, a Pirate, a Lost Boy, or an Indian, from what I can tell…
- The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
What are you gonna do if you don’t like who Peter’s killing, go get Officer Astronaut to haul his punk ass to the Space Brig? No, I don’t think so. You’re going to have to deal with it until he gets bored and decides to either A) kill you, or B) grant a request because it fills the Narcissism Tank with ‘Grade A Grandiosity‘.
“Father knows best,” [Wendy] always said, whatever her private opinion must be. (Barrie, 123)
“Oh, by the way, who’s your Great White Father, Wendy? That’s right – Peter.”
“Peter,” she asked, trying to speak firmly, “what are your exact feelings to me?”
“Those of a devoted son, Wendy.”
“I thought so,” she said, and went and sat by herself at the extreme end of the room.
“You are so queer,” he said, frankly puzzled, “and Tiger Lily is just the same.
There is something she wants to be to me, but she says it is not my mother.”
“No, indeed, it is not,” Wendy replied with frightful emphasis.
Of course, words mean something different to Peter than to everyone else – and of course, his definition is what goes around these parts. “Woman! Thimble me immediately!!”
- The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
…did I mention the ‘killing as a bonding activity?’ No? Well, keep reading…
- The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
[Narcissistic victims] are frequently rather nervous, with a guilt-ridden, anxious look and effect. They may appear restless, worried, and/or demonstrate a fake laugh that seems to hide something else. (‘Sign of the Times‘ Official Website)
Narcissistic Victim Syndrome is the common term for ‘What happens when you are processing the mental/ emotional/ physical stress from putting up with a Sociopath.’ ::insert gif here::
[The Twins] did their best to give satisfaction by keeping close together in an apologetic sort of way. (Barrie, 66)
- A Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
What did disturb her at times was that John remembered his parents vaguely only, as people he had once known, while Michael was quite willing to believe that she was really his mother. These things scared her a little… (Barrie, 94-95)
Now your life’s goal is ‘Never Grow Up’.
The difference between him and the other boys at such a time was that they knew it was make-believe, while to him make-believe and true were exactly the same thing. This sometimes troubled them, as when they had to make-believe that they had had their dinners.
If they broke down in their make-believe he rapped them on the knuckles. (Barrie, 85)
- The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
After all, turnover happens quite whimsically…
- Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
Adventures, of course, as we shall see, were of daily occurrence; but about this time Peter invented, with Wendy’s help, a new game that fascinated him enormously, until he suddenly had no more interest in it, which, as you have been told, was what always happened with his games… For several suns these were the most novel of all adventures to him; and John and Michael had to pretend to be delighted also; otherwise he would have treated them severely. (Barrie, 96)
- Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
In his absence… when pirates and lost boys meet they merely bite their thumbs at each other. But with the coming of Peter, who hates lethargy, they are all under way again… (Barrie, 64)
This just goes to show the Pirates have no particular ill-will towards the Lost Boys, in general, beyond an East Coast ‘Hello’. It reminds me of a movie I saw once of the Americans and Germans passing each other, but since there was no battle, they passed peacefully.
- The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
If you leave ‘The Lost Boys’, you’d better be planning to become a Pirate (and hope they don’t kill you, first) or trying to get the fuck back to where-ever part of the globe he happened to snatch you away from as a child. Since he’s the one who holds the fairy under his thumb, and thus controls access to transportation off of the island, I don’t think that second one is very likely.
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; but at this time there were six of them… (Barrie, 65)
Once you get to be a certain age, you’re dead. It’s kind of like that one episode of Stargate with the balding 25-year-old. That age – the age of 12 – pretty much happens to be ‘The Age of Reason’. See, when someone sees through your bullshit (and sociopaths’ lungs happen to run on lies more than oxygen – true story I just made up), you turn everyone against them, and ruin them.
Or, let’s say, you try to kill the girl Peter convinced to take care of him and the boys:
“Listen, Tinker Bell,” he cried, “I am your friend no more. Begone from me forever.” (Barrie, 82)
Or say you want to go home:
Their first thought was that if Peter was not going he had probably changed his mind about letting them go.
But he was far too proud for that. “If you find your mothers,” he said darkly, “I hope you will like them.”
The awful cynicism of this made an uncomfortable impression, and most of them began to look rather doubtful. After all, their faces said, were they not noodles to want to go? (Barrie, 142)
DISREGARD FOR SOCIETY’S LAWS
If you don’t believe Neverneverland was a disease-induced hallucination of the Summerland, then, at best, we have a mentally-ill young boy who has magical powers (we infer, because sociopaths have no soul, he sold it to the FUCKING Prince of Hell in exchange for them, which is why he’s constantly cruising for innocent souls) and uses them to manipulate young children into living in tribal conditions on the fringes of society.
Breaking and Entering
It was in this casual way that Wendy one morning made a disquieting revelation. Some leaves of a tree had been found on the nursery floor, which certainly were not there when the children went to bed, and Mrs. Darling was puzzling over them when Wendy said with a tolerant smile:
“I do believe it is that Peter again!”
“Whatever do you mean, Wendy?”
“It’s so naughty of him not to wipe,” Wendy said, sighing. She was a tidy child. (Barrie, 13)
LACK OF REMORSE
Not only did Peter cut off Hook’s “arm” (Barrie, 73), as the Captain puts it, but fed it to an aquatically-inclined animal which follows Hook around on his floating house, wanting to chew that mother fucker up and shit him out. The guy has to smoke two cigars at a time just to keep from being eaten up by anxiety at all times.
Emotional Rights Violations
Wendy’s daughter, Jane, is confused by this boy’s cocky attitude, even more confused by the homicidal fairy following him everywhere and committing assault routinely. Confidently, smiling, he enlightens her:
“Aw, she’s just jealous – all girls get like that around me.”
–Peter Pan, ‘Disney’s Return to Neverland’
Not only is Peter bragging about the fact that he causes widespread emotional distress to the heterosexual cisgendered females, he also implies his expectation of Jane’s conformity with such a dynamic – the implication, of course, being to question her femininity.
At the beginning of the second movie, Peter steals Hook’s Treasure, because he’s bored. In order to survive, one needs currency (assuming Jas. Hook participates in commerce); however, once again, Hook is seen as the villain for wanting his own shit back.
Knowing how long it took everyone to get the hang of flying, (answer: long enough for Peter to forget who they were multiple times) Peter decides to try a sink-or-swim activity that will be perfect for solidifying loyalties:
[Peter’s] courage was almost appalling. “Would you like an adventure now,” he said casually to John, “or would you like to have your tea first?”
Wendy said “tea first” quickly, and Michael pressed her hand in gratitude, but the braver John hesitated.
“What kind of adventure?” he asked cautiously.
“There’s a pirate asleep in the pampas just beneath us,” Peter told him. “If you like, we’ll go down and kill him.”
“I don’t see him,” John said after a long pause.
“Suppose,” John said, a little huskily, “he were to wake up.”
Peter spoke indignantly. “You don’t think I would kill him while he was sleeping! I would wake him first, and then kill him. That’s the way I always do.” (Barrie, 57)
Yep – isn’t plotting the murder of a sleeping man a grand way to get to know one another? To intimidate the new recruits into keeping in-line? …why am I suddenly having flashbacks of Salò?
Another sign of a Sociopath is the ‘Predatory Gaze’ –
He came back, and there was a greedy look in his eyes now which ought to have alarmed her, but did not.
“Oh, the stories I could tell to the boys!” she cried, and then Peter gripped her and began to draw her toward the window.
“Let me go!” she ordered him. (Barrie, 42)
Yes, because when Peter Pan wants you to jump out a window in the middle of the night, you jump out the fucking window, without question, and with a smile on your face.
Don’t mess with him, man.