Sep 28, 2018

Peter Pan

I'm fine with drag now, but in 1966, I was freaked out by Mary Martin's portrayal of Peter Pan, a monstrous conflation of male/female and child/adult (Peter is traditionally played by an older woman, in the tradition of the British Christmas pantomime).

Three years later, in 1969, my uncle took me to the theatrical re-release of the Disney version (1953), with 15-year old Bobby Driscoll voicing Peter Pan. Although I was older, I was still freaked out by the dog wearing the nanny cap and the Lost Boys in bear, wolf, and skunk costumes, monstrous conflations of the human and the animal.

And the heterosexism, nearly as intense as in the Disney live action adventures like Light in the Forest with James MacArthur.

There's a story about Bobby Driscoll's date with Joe Dallesandro on Tales of West Hollywood.

Peter is subjected to the amorous flirtations of Tinker Bell and the mermaids, all of whom try to kill his current gal pal, Wendy. He goes beyond flirting with Princess Tiger Lily, whose kisses make him redden and tremble with erotic ecstasy.  Meanwhile, the Indian men explain how they "became red": they're all reddened with erotic ecstasy after being kissed by Indian women.

Captain Hook, one of Disney's standard gay-vague sophisticated villains, dislikes women and has an arguably erotic interest in Peter Pan.  He stays in Neverland year after year, in spite of the advice and near-mutiny of his crew, with only one goal: to "get" the boy.

Homoerotic desire is evil, unwholesome, and destructive.  Heterosexual desire inflames you.  A monstrous perversion of the original novels and plays by J. M. Barrie (who was gay in real life), where Peter Pan inhabits a homoerotic Eden, free from the constraint of "growing up" into heterosexual marriage.

But it gets worse.

In Hook (1991), Robin Williams plays a Peter Pan who grew up, forgot his identity, graduated from law school, and married Wendy's granddaughter.  When his children are kidnapped by Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman), Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) appears to restore his memory and his powers so he can rescue them.  She accomplishes this task by reminding Peter of the hetero-erotic Eden he abandoned:
"You know that place between sleep and awake?  The place where you still remember dreaming? That's where I'll always love you."

In Peter Pan (2003), Peter (13-year old Jeremy Sumpter, top photo and left) is dressed in wisps of leaves that lay bare unexpected bits of his body, like a prepubescent strip tease, as he struts about, emblematic of heterosexual eroticism.

He doesn't just flirt -- he desires Wendy, and the stories she tells, which all end with a kiss. He wrests her from her parents ("Sorry, we both can't have her), and their prepubscent passion ignites into a power that can defeat Captain Hook (who, by the way, is no longer gay-vague)

Let's not even mention the depressing Death of Peter Pan (1988),  about the "impossible love" of J.M. Barrie's adopted son Michael and his schoolmate Rupert Buxton.

See also: Jeremy Sumpter: A Normal Kid


  1. No comment on the racism of the Disney cartoon? I mean, granted, this was like, less than a decade after "Song of the South", but yeah, the racism is fairly obvious.

    Still wondering how they were able to get a child to appear in the 2003 costume. Do the MPAA not have standards? And that, my friends, is why "Peter Pan" is a slang for pedophile. Well, that and Neverland Ranch.

  2. I was wondering about that costume, too. Whose idea was it? Didn't Jeremy object? Or his parents? Or anyone?

  3. The problem with a live action Peter Pan is that the darker aspects of the story become a lot more obvious than in a cartoon. In the recent television version Hook was obviously gay- there was also the truly bizarre "Pan"(2015) a pointless origin story about how Peter ends up in Neverland- in which a Captain Hook is a hero and played by sexy Garrett Hedlum

    1. I'm currently watching "Once Upon a Time" on Netflix. Hook has an origin story involving his brother, not a wife, and he does a lot of buddy-bonding with David, but he also hooks up with women, which is a problem for gay subtexts.


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