Thursday, December 17, 2015

"I've just had an apostrophe"

So this morning I woke early, and instead of getting up and being productive, I just lay there in my warm bed, letting random thoughts stream through my mind, and it reminded me of what Tinkerbell says in Hook about "that place between sleep and awake- the place where you can still remember dreaming" , I started thinking very in-depth about the movie.

I watched it recently, and it remains one of my favorite examples of slipstream cinema. And there are questions I have always wondered about it:

1. When did Mr. Smee become a stand up comedian?

Before the movie audience ever sees Captain Hook, we're treated to a little stand-up routine by Smee, who even has his own little stage on the upper level of the deck. He introduces the captain by making jokes such as "A man so quick, he's even fast- ASLEEP!" and "So let's give him a very big hand- 'cause he's only got one.  . ." and I can't help but wonder how this little introduction tradition began. I guess we're supposed to assume that this precedes any appearance by Captain Hook, because the pirates don't seem surprised by this behavior. But did Smee just start making jokes one day? Did Captain Hook approach him and ask him to work up a little routine to lighten the daily drudgery of swabbing the deck and killing Lost Boys? If Smee though it up himself, what was Hook's reaction the first time it happened? Was he angry? Or did he enjoy the added attention? Does he have to pre-approve all the jokes before Smee can say them?

2. And speaking of Smee, at the film's conclusion when Peter wakes up at the foot of the statue in Kensington Gardens, he encounters a man sweeping up rubbish. The movie audience recognizes the man as Bob Hoskins/Smee, and Peter seems to recognize him too, but the man/Smee gives no indication that he recognizes Peter. Is that man sweeping up rubbish just a character that bears a striking resemblance to Smee, and the same actor was used for the movie audience's sake, so we'd make the connection that Peter is now back in the real world? Or, is the man actually supposed to be Smee? If so, does he remember that he's Smee, former lackey to a murderous, yet comical and bumbling, dark haired pirate captain? Or, did he flee Neverland (because although we see him helping himself to the ship's treasure, we never find out what happens to him) and go back to the real world?

If he doesn't remember anything about Neverland, then it would make sense that he doesn't recognize Peter. But if he does remember, then is he purposely not letting on that he recognizes Peter, as a reminder to him that he'll never really escape his Neverland past? Or, has he turned over a new leaf, and decided that he wants to have a new life, and he should also let Peter let go of his Pan-ness, and embrace his life as Peter Banning?

I discussed this second slipstream dilemma with my husband, and he ventured that the story of Peter Pan functions much like The Wizard of Oz, in that the characters have their 'real' selves, and also have their alter-egos in the fantasy world. This is communicated well in stage versions of Peter Pan because traditionally, the actor who portrays Mr. Darling, the father, also portrays Capt. Hook, which makes for some very Freudian interpretations.

So maybe, this groundskeeper in the Kensington Gardens is simply the 'real life' version of Mr. Smee? But then my husband wondered if this alter ego theory is sound because although Capt. Hook and Mr. Smee might have 'real life' selves, the Lost Boys are exactly what their name signifies: lost. According to Barrie's text, they fell out of their prams, were not claimed, and thus were sent to the Neverland. Those boys actually left the 'real' world- and they have no one to stand in for them.

BUT- then I surmised that although those particular boys left, and were Lost, that they were still replaced. Remember, Peter Pan does try to return home to his own window, but sees that his parents have had another child. His window is no longer open. He has been replaced. Like Peter, I would think that the parents of the boys who were Lost also replaced them with other children.

This leads us to the main story thread regarding Wendy. Wendy is the first girl to travel to Neverland, according to the original text. There are no Lost Girls because as Peter says "girls are much too clever to fall out of their prams."

And unlike all the male children who have preceded her, Wendy cannot be replaced. Why you ask?

Because she is a girl. She is a future mother (at least, in keeping with Edwardian gender role expectations).

Boys can be replaced; mothers cannot.

How do I know this? The proof is in the Pan pudding.

If you ever look up any biographical information of JM Barrie, you'll find out that he had an older brother who perished tragically in an ice-skating accident. That's right, he died taking part in a popular childhood past-time. Their mother Margaret was devastated by the death of her favorite son, a fact which is rarely contested by any biographer. Barrie tried desperately to fill David's shows, even dressing in his clothes and whistling in the same light-hearted, boyish manner. David was Lost, and would remain a young boy forever;  JM Barrie was not the exact same person as his brother, but he moved into the same role for the sake of his mother. Despite his intentions to assuage his mother's grief, no doubt he understood that Margaret Ogilvy is the only mother he could ever have. So despite the obvious preference she showed for David, he remained devoted to her, even writing a biographical account of her life so that a portion of her could live forever. A mother may give birth to multiple children, but we can only be born from one mother.

And indeed, it's not mere speculation that Wendy is a future mother, because we get a glimpse of her fate in the conclusion of the text.  She has a daughter, which "ought not to be written in ink but a gold splash" as Barrie writes. Of course when Peter returns eventually, Wendy is not able to fly away with him. She is no longer a future mother, but a mother. Or rather, she has become Other. And like her, her daughter will grow up and become Other, as will the next girl, and so on and so on.

This has been a very long-winded post, and I'm fairly certain no one invests as much time and energy into thinking about Hook/Peter Pan/Barrie's biography/gender theory that I do, but I had to write it down because it's the best early morning thought stream I've had in a long time.

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