The Dark Side Of “Peter Pan”

Blame Walt Disney.

His 1953 animated classic Peter Pan sanitized the character created half a century before by Scottish novelist/playwright J.M. Barrie.

You know, the boy who beat Captain Hook, then got him to say “I’m a codfish!” My two sons loved that when they were pre-schoolers.

A few years ago, when my wife played keyboard for the annual Burgettstown High School musical, they did a production of Peter Pan. One closer in spirit to Barrie’s original story.

I found the ending downright melancholy.

Wendy clearly had feelings for Peter. Peter wanted a substitute mom. You could feel Wendy’s heartbreak in the auditorium. She had to move on; no way would Peter ever mature along with Wendy, even though he promised to return the following spring. He was permanently 12.

The play ends with Peter showing up at the Darlings’ window a generation later, to find Wendy grown up. Nevermind he broke he promise to her (if he ever meant it at all), he’s offended that she had the nerve to grow up and marry one of the Lost Boys. But Wendy’s daughter, Jane, agrees to become Peter’s new mom and come to Neverland; Peter is satisfied; the cycle continues.

It’s all about him. A 12-year-old with zero discipline, zero empathy, zero maturity. Definitely NOT Disney’s Peter Pan.

Wikipedia describes him thusly:

“Peter is an exaggerated stereotype of a boastful and careless boy. He claims greatness, even when such claims are questionable (such as congratulating himself when Wendy re-attaches his shadow). In the play and book, Peter symbolizes the selfishness of childhood, and is portrayed as being forgetful and self-centered.”

It’s a ugly tale. Most 12-year-olds have learned at least SOME discipline, empathy and maturity.

On the other hand, maybe I’m just adulting a little too much here.

It’s wonderful to dream, even more so to get to live your dream; Kelsea Ballerini’s certainly living hers. But a dream requires a plan, and a plan requires at least some growing up. Kelsea’s lyrics (co-written here with Forest Glen Whitehead and Jesse Lee) show a maturity and depth that perfectly contrast the playful sexiness of her first two #1 hits, “Love Me Like You Mean It” and “Dibs.” Artists, managers and record companies figure this stuff out way in advance. Put the playful, uptempo tunes out first, then the serious one. However it came together, I like how it’s unfolding.

And I think we’ve only begun to hear what Kelsea Ballerini has to say.

 

 

 

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