"an adult story with very disturbing themes"
July 12, 2009 1 Comment
Three-and-a-half years ago, I read Peter & Wendy (aka Peter Pan) to my wife’s pregnant belly, a chapter a night. The idea at the time was to get Benjamin used to his father’s voice before he was born.
We read several other books this way during the pregnancy, including both of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books and several of Frank Baum’s Oz books, but it was Peter & Wendy that affected me most. It is not a comfortable book. It is not quite for children and not quite for grownups. The plays, musicals, cartoons, and films manage to leave out most of what’s disturbing about the book, but in doing so, they rip out its heart.
Those nightly readings ended when the boy was born, and I have missed them terribly. For three years now I’ve been waiting to resume chapter-a-night family book time, and it’s finally happened. We began with Alice in Wonderland, but because of recent travel, Alice has been interspersed with various versions of Peter Pan — and, like me, Benjamin is hooked on the J.M. Barrie story. He likes it in all its forms. I’m only really a fan of Barrie’s novelization (although I admit that the musical stage production can be amazing).
To me, this is a book worth exploring, and I do want Benjamin to know it well, but we will have to have many talks about its more perverse elements. For now, he just likes the flying and fighting, which is what I suspect most children focus on.
I’m enjoying reading the negative reviews on Amazon from horrified grownups. I excerpt a few of them here.
By Jackie M. Bachenberg:
I certainly wouldn’t recommend reading this to a 5 or 6 year old before they drift off to sleep. There are just too many references to the fact that Dad in particular, may not have wanted all three of those children. There is also a very healthy amount of violence that you just might not want your elementary kid listening to. Peter cut off Hook’s arm and threw it to the crocodile. The lost boys are always fighting either the “redskins” or the pirates. And if you’re into the politically correct, this book is not. Instead of using the modern day “native American” we’re given “redskin”. I don’t have a problem with it, but I can just see the furor it would cause if Jr. goes to school and calls his little native American classmate a redskin.
By Katherine A. Kennedy:
I picked up what I thought would be a playful fairy tale and got just that; for I had forgotten about the cannibalistic witch in Hansel and Gretel, about the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid, and about the Wolf in the original telling of Little Red Riding Hood. This is a haunting and horrific tale of abuse and neglect masked with the innocent ideals of childhood. It came to a chilling conclusion and will stay with me for quite a while.
I am quite impressed that the themes in this book were so elegantly masked as to double as a children’s story as well as an adult story with very disturbing themes. I will keep my copy of this book, but it certainly won’t be the first thing that I read to my daughter out-loud.
By Daniel Mackler:
The extreme: The perverse sexual dynamics. I feel the author set up Peter Pan and Wendy and Tinker Bell as a vile little love-sex triangle. If you think I’m nuts writing this, look at all the obvious romantic dynamics between Peter and Wendy alone, and then add in the EXTREME jealousy and rage of Tinker Bell over this, and note how the author radically sexualized Tinker Bell – how she was an adult woman, how she flaunted her sexuality, how she dressed in ways that best showed off her body. (Even the OLD version of the book I have shows Tinker Bell as a definite woman, not a girl, dressed sexy and flirting with a DEFINITELY pre-pubescent boy.)
To back up my point, imagine the genders of the characters flipped, with Peter Pan being a little prepubescent girl and Tinker Bell a man, constantly flaunting his adult body for a girl’s attention, and flying into rages and trying to literally kill off the romantic competition? Sick!! It would be called pedophilia.
And then the whole dynamics with Wendy being Peter’s mother-lover: not healthy!