Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Peter Pan: Outdated and Sexist

My roommates and I just watched Peter Pan, the original Disney classic. The last time I saw this, I was maybe 12, at the oldest. Wow, what a little time and perspective does to a movie. I remember watching this film as a kid and absolutely loving it, as I do with most Disney movies. However, this is one Disney movie that does not stand the test of time. Its depictions of women and Native Americans make me want to keep this one off my DVD shelf. I know many Disney movies don't have very feminist messages, having fairytale routes, but in this film they were particularly negative.

Women of Peter Pan

I already talked about her inappropriate outfit, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. In the movie, through absolutely no dialogue, you see her as a shallow, jealous, and manipulative woman. Her introductory scene shows her concerned over the size of her hips and jealous over Peter Pan's fascination with Wendy. She doesn't get any better as the movie progresses. She races to lose Wendy and orders the Lost Boys to shoot her down. She nearly kills Wendy! All because she doesn't want Peter Pan to focus on any other woman but her. And then, instead of trying to apologize or get to know Wendy, she runs off hurt and alone. Later in the movie, Hook hears of her being spurned and decides to use her in his plot to kill Pan. Hook is sure this will work because "a jealous woman can be tricked into anything." Yes, that is a direct quote from the movie. She does save Peter Pan from the bomb, but that doesn't redeem her in my eyes because she never tries to make things right with Wendy. The closest she gets to an apology is covering the ship with pixie dust to drop them off back home. So in the end, she does get rid of Wendy and has Peter all to herself.

The mermaids are only in one scene, but they still manage to fit within the poor image of women in this film. They are shallow beings, again focusing mainly on their looks. They sit and swim around all day, and spend a lot of time just combing their hair and looking pretty. When Wendy shows up, they become mean and jealous. Apparently, Peter Pan is the only man of interest in Neverland and all the ladies want him and they don't want to share.

Wendy isn't as shallow and petty as the other ladies, because she's the "mother" in this movie. It shows that only motherly type women are supportive and nurturing. The young, carefree mermaids and Tinkerbell only care about getting their man, at any cost to other people.

This telling of JM Barrie's Peter Pan is definitely my least favorite of those I've watched recently. Disney's Peter Pan will not be getting the repeated viewings of Aladdin, The Lion King, and Pixar films. For this story, I think I'll stick with Hook, Finding Neverland, or the even new Peter Pan.

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