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Posts Tagged ‘Children’s Books’

Forever Young, Forever Violent: Imagination, Sadism, and Once’s Peter Pan

In ABC Soaps, TV villains, violence, white masculinity on September 11, 2014 at 11:40 am

(Or, “Violently Inclined, Part II”)

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Phoebe B.

In many children’s stories, young men function as the site of imaginative production. Books from Peter Pan to Harold and the Purple Crayon are populated almost exclusively by young boys who dream big and create their own worlds. Boys’ imaginations, these stories suggest, are capable of creating universes well beyond the scope of their immediate existence.

In Harold and the Purple Crayon, Harold draws his own world. Max ventures into the land where the wild things are; the little prince sketches his way through adventures to escape the adult world; and Christopher Robin traipses through the woods with a bevvy of furry imaginary friends. And in Peter Pan (the book and the movies), Neverland is a welcome escape for young white boys and even Wendy Darling—a place of youthfulness, fun, and a little benign mischief. 

On this last point, the latest season of ABC’s hit fairytale mash-up Once Upon a Time begs to differ. Instead of fun and clever mischief, Peter Pan’s creative landscape is a site of destruction and violence run amok. In Neverland, as Pan says, nobody ever says “no” and violence is a casual, everyday occurrence. This Neverland more resembles the heart of darkness or Lord of the Flies than Disney’s previous Neverland versions replete with laughter, song, and light. 

In Once’s fairytale world, Peter Pan is a permanent villain. His island is cloaked in darkness; his shadow—far from the playful version in the Disney film—is evil and entirely capable of murder. The character has kidnapped hundreds of kids over the years to keep him company in his eternal youth, preying on lost and lonely boys by convincing them that no one else cares for them, thereby breaking their bond to any worldly place or people. He even keeps Wendy Darling in a cage as if she is his permanent possession, using her captivity to turn her brothers into Pan’s personal henchmen for a century.

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