You might be surprised to find out that Peter Pan is not some ancient folkloric figure but is relatively new, historically speaking. He may have been loosely inspired by the Greek god Pan, but in fact he was born in the 20thCentury.
The character of Peter Pan was created by Scottish author J.M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, a play that debuted in London on December 27, 1904. Over the years, with a big boost from Walt Disney in 1953, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook, Wendy, et al have passed into popular culture. Peter Pan peanut butter? Hard to believe, but that goes back to the 1920s. Just why this brand name was selected is a mystery, but perhaps it was because kids like peanut butter, so the name Peter Pan implies that, at least in this case, it is OK for adults not to grow up. Enjoy your second childhood by scarfing up peanut butter!
In more recent decades, Dr. Dan Kiley popularized the phrase “Peter Pan Syndrome” via his 1983 book The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up. The phrase has also passed into popular culture, so even people who never read the book use the phrase (in more recent years, the term “failure to launch” has become a worthy competitor). So when J.M. Barrie created Peter Pan, he apparently struck a nerve in western culture. Some egghead pundits might assert that he had offered up a variation on a Jungian archetype.
Perhaps the most famous interpretation of Peter Pan was by Mary Martin, who had the title role in the 1954 Broadway musical. After a long career in stage, screen, and television, she is still remembered for this role, even though she died in 1990, long before anyone ever heard of gender fluidity…gender fluids, maybe. In fact, a statue of Mary Martin in her hometown of Weatherford, Texas portrays her in the role of Peter Pan. Fun fact: her son, the late Larry Hagman, who became world famous playing J.R. Ewing in the Dallas TV series, also has a statue in Weatherford. I’m not aware of any other town where a mother and son (aside from Mary and Jesus) are so honored.
Curiously, Mary Martin was not the first mature actress (she was 41 in 1954) to play the youthful Peter Pan. In fact, that very first production in 1904 also featured another female, Nina Boucicault (age 37), in the title role (it probably didn’t hurt that she was the sister of the director). A number of the Lost Boys were also played by women, largely due to stringent British labor laws pertaining to children. Barrie’s play was so popular it was performed in London continuously till 1939 when a lot of British adolescent boys were compelled to grow up fast to take on the Wehrmacht.
When Peter Pan was produced on Broadway in November 1905, famed American actress Maude Adams (not to be confused with the Bond girl of the same name) was chosen for the title role. In 1924, a silent movie featured Betty Bronson (a more age-appropriate 17) in the title role.
How is it that an adult female can fit so snugly in a part written for an adolescent male? How do we account for all this, occurring long before the trendy gender bender themes of modern times?
Well, in days of old, when sex roles were better defined, it was not unusual for a woman to assert something along the lines of “If I were a man, I’d…” The implication was that men had agency and women didn’t. “It’s a man’s world” was taken for granted though some women weren’t happy with that. The term “masculine protest” was coined by psychologist Alfred Adler to describe females who were aggressive, pushy, or domineering.
Nevertheless, assuming there is such a thing as patriarchy, that men indeed have more power than women, then we must contemplate the wisdom, not of Peter Pan but of Peter Parker. You know, “With great power comes great responsibility.” But suppose men don’t have great power. Does that let them off the hook when it comes to great responsibility, Spidey?
Well, this man’s world has been heavily infiltrated by females to the point where “the future is female” is taken as common wisdom and any all-male gathering is as suspect as a Klan meeting. If that is indeed the case, then we might have a clue as to why men don’t want to grow up and, by extension, why they don’t want to get married.
For all the reasons mentioned so many times on this web site, marriage has become a dungeon. The institution’s power is with the state and the state is gynocentric. If a man stops to ask, “What’s in it for me?” the response is usually to appeal to one’s sense of duty. For many, the definition of a real man is someone who takes responsibility no matter what the cost to him personally.
Well, responsibility comes in many different forms.
The family man has no authority over his family. He still has responsibility, however, and he is frequently reminded of those responsibilities by the real authority, the state. The man is no longer the boss, just the supervisor. The state sets the policy and the supervisor sees that the state’s policy is carried out…or else, see you in court. Much the same is true in the workplace where, in a sense, all jobs are government jobs. Employers must hold fast to government policies…or else – you guessed it – see you in court.
So married manhood is not as desirable a status as it used to be. If you are a boy today, you might not be in any hurry to grow up. If you’re a budding alpha male the world may still be your oyster. If you’re not…well, all that’s left for you are the oyster shells. (They do make great fertilizer if you grind ‘em up, however.)
So why shouldn’t a man take a cue from Peter Pan and protract his adolescence? What’s there to look forward to? At the same time manhood is being denigrated, middle class life is harder and harder to attain, requires more and more debt, and the rewards are less and less. Well, when the going gets tough…it’s time to reconsider your position. Hence the Peter Pan Syndrome. A rational response, long-range social consequences notwithstanding.
Well, we not only have Peter Pans amongst us, we also have growing numbers of guys who say they identify as females. I am tempted to call it Peter Tran Syndrome, but I won’t. There are a lot of Vietnamese guys out there named Peter Tran (just Google the name), and they would likely object to the phrase.
The preponderance of sex changes follow the male-to-female route. The phenomenon is not new. Cross-dressing has probably been going on ever since Adam and Eve started covering themselves up, and hermaphrodites have been noted in all cultures throughout history. Historically speaking, sex-change operations are relatively new. Christine (originally George) Jorgensen made headline news in 1952 as the first American to go to Denmark to undergo a sex change operation. (The first such operation was not performed in the US till 1966.) This is not to say that 50-60 years ago one could walk into a doctor’s office, bat one’s eyelashes, and request a penectomy.
Back in the mid-70s, I knew a guy who hung around strip clubs. While I was making the rounds with him, he introduced me to a friend who worked as a dancer. She had been a he, and the changeover had been quite an ordeal. In those days, one had to take a battery of physical and psychological tests. In other words, it was not to be taken lightly. Needless to say, you had to be an adult. You had to convince the doctor that you were dead serious about it, that it wasn’t just a passing fancy. As the old medical adage goes, “First, do no harm.” There was no turning back, so if the doctor thought there was a chance you might get buyer’s remorse, forget about it. There was no gender fluidity. You couldn’t go back and forth at will.
How do we account for the fact that a vaginoplasty is a much more popular operation than an add-a-dick-to-me? Is it simply because it’s easier to go convex than concave? Is it because borderline soy boys are afraid of succumbing to toxic masculinity? Or are they afraid of being held to male standards of accountability?
That 27-year-old man living with his parents may eventually cave in to his parents’ wishes and present them with grandchildren. But there’s no point in nagging him to find a nice girl and start a family if he decides to undergo gender reassignment surgery. And the greatest surgeon in the world can’t create a functioning womb, so all hope for grandchildren is lost. Hence the male-to-female operation stifles all requests or demands pertaining to extending the family bloodline. You don’t just dodge the bullet, you make yourself bulletproof.
Best of all, the male-to-female shape-shifter will never be admonished to man up – because she is no longer a man! If you’re looking for a way to minimize the world’s demands on you, what better method than to go from male to female? As Norah Vincent discovered in her book Self-Made Man, life is easier when you’re a woman, even if you’re a lesbian, as she was.
It’s not a matter of social constructs. Though the basic mammalian template is female, male differentiation starts at conception and really kicks in when the fetus’s sex glands start to develop. Unfortunately, male differentiation takes its toll right from the start.
150 males are conceived for every 100 females. Thanks to miscarriages (about twice as many male fetuses as females) and spontaneous abortions (apparently that XX chromosome combo protects females against lethal recessive traits), that ratio changes to 105-110 to 100 at the time of birth. The ratio of stillborn babies is 130-135 males to 100 women.
During the first year of life, male mortality is 27% higher than for females. During the first four years of life, male youngsters make up about 60% of the accidental deaths. During the teenage years it gets worse, as the death ratio is four boys for every girl from ages 15 to 19. Name any age range and women are less likely to die.
More recently Plos One published a Global Gender Gap study by the University of Essex and the University of Missouri-Columbia (ironically, the same institution that became a national laughingstock in 2015 thanks to leftist overreaching). The study concluded that women have it easier in 91 of 134 countries. If you look it up on the internet, you might question the study’s methodology, but it’s safe to say that no university social scientists are going to massage the data to make men appear sympathetic.
Given all the above, one would think that any man who arrives at full-functional manhood would be celebrated. He survived the gauntlet! The obstacles for a female zygote to make it to womanhood are much less. Yet the adjectives “stunning,” “amazing,” and “brave” are far more often applied to women than to men.
Sorry, mom and dad, but your son’s motivation to be responsible for anything more than his own well-being is diminishing day by day. Even in more traditional societies, failure-to-launch worries of parents are hardly unknown. Hand-wringing about directionless sons (and unmarried daughters) have long been middle class preoccupations. One of the greatest examples in literature is Prince Hal in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2. In short, though Prince Hal is heir to the throne of England, he isn’t acting like it. Sad to say he fell in with a bad crowd. He spends all of his time drinking and carousing with a bunch of layabouts, notably a shameless fat slob known as Falstaff, the proverbial bad influence. What will become of Prince Hal if he doesn’t reform? What will become of England if this wastrel ascends to the throne?
Well, surprise, surprise, once the prince becomes king he behaves in a kingly manner. He leaves his companions behind, straightens up, and flies right.
But why did Prince Hal launch and why would a young man today choose not to? Well, Hal had motivation. He was given authority, not just responsibilities. He was not a mere supervisor. He did not carry out policy enacted by bureaucrats or committees. He made policy. He was king. Since democracy and equality are always being praised to the skies, we sometimes forget that it’s good to be the king. Even if it’s just your home and your castle.
Today’s young man will never be granted authority even if he voluntarily shoulders ever burden heaped upon him. Given the various levels of governmental policies and their attendant bureaucracies, autonomy is just a pleasant fantasy. Everybody reports to somebody. In ye olden days, every married man at least had authority over his family. Not any more. Now he is just a supervisor. He will have more responsibilities than a slacker but less autonomy. What is his motivation? To be the head of a family? Talk about a thankless task!
So the 21st Century Peter Pan has many reasons for slowing down the maturation process if not doing an end run around the traditional rites of passage. Is the sex changer motivated by the same reasons? Yang is for suckers, so I’m going with yin – permanently.
So now we see why women are so believable at playing Peter Pan. Irresponsibility is the female birthright. As boys, men start at the same point but cannot remain there without inviting censure. Not so girls. A young man who refuses to become a man might as well become a woman. Hence the flight from manhood to womanhood. In a sense, this death of a man’s manhood is a type of suicide that doesn’t show up in the male suicide statistics.
It is yet another variation on the theme of male disposability