Is “Peter Pan” An Allegory to Today’s American Male?
I watched NBC’s “Peter Pan Live” the other night, half out of nostalgia (Mary Martin’s iconic performance in the fifties’ TV production that I saw as a kid left a lifelong impression on me), half to relish the freshness and spontaneity of live television. Plus I thought Allison Williams did a terrific job (Christopher Walken who played Hook looked like he was constantly reading the cue cards). Frankly, I found Allison the most boyish looking of any of the females who had played Peter since the first theatrical production of the Barrie story in 1905. (BTW, Barrie’s story was inspired by his brother who died at 14 in a bike accident and was forever frozen in time in his family’s memory as a young boy.)
But as I watched Neverland and the Lost Boys come to life again, and heard their rallying song, “I’ll Never Grow Up,” I wondered if the tale of Peter Pan isn’t a parable of the modern American male and how immature and perpetually adolescent American men have become.
How do I define perpetually adolescent? A guy who’s ego-centric and myopic (“it’s all about me”), fantasizing fondly about his teenage years and twenties while taking little responsibility for the rest of his life, acting 25 when he’s 55, always looking for the easy way out, not really concerned about other people and how his actions might affect them, and acting stupid and brattish way beyond the occasional lapses in civility we’re all allowed as humans.
I’m talking in generalities now, since there are a lot of bimbo girls out there too, but when I was still teaching college, I found my female students to be far more emotionally and intellectually mature than their male counterparts, many of whom were jocks whose career choice was to be a “sports manager.” (How many fucken sports managers does this society need?) My smartest male students were mostly foreign born from the Middle East, India and Asia, and when I did have an All-American boy with smarts, he often sought to hide his brain power for fear in he would be judged nerdy or even effeminate in the eyes of his bros.
Fast forward to Adulthood. How many guys have you met who work at shlock jobs looking for an easy buck because they have no ambition, like one str8 thirty something I know who bartends with two degrees because all he has to think about is what goes into a martini? Or my partner’s well educated 29 year old great-nephew, a husband and dad, who walked out of a six figure job in finance because his boss pissed him off and now is a stock boy in Pottery Barn while his wife, a physical therapist, is the family breadwinner?
Or even if they are working professionally and making good money, so many guys act like absolute assholes when they morph into over-the-top sports fanatics dressed like jerks or drunker or higher than a loon in the stadium. Or sitting in their man caves with a beer in one hand and their fourth slice of pizza in the other, yelling on top of their lungs for their team in what they think is manly behavior, as they relive their high school or college days as a jock. Or endless playing video games with a bud (one of my female students did a paper on her husband’s addiction to video games) instead of fixing that leaky toilet. Okay, I admit everybody needs to let his hair down sometimes, but all too often, a lot of American men use these moments to delude themselves into thinking they’re still virile and with it, when in reality they’re double-chinned, beer-bellied, hen-pecked, and up to their ass crack in debt.
One letter to my favorite syndicated advice columnist, “Ask Amy” from a frustrated gal complained about her boyfriend spending most nights alone smoking pot. She wondered if he was marriage material and might change after they hitched – wanna give a guess what Amy told her? (This reminded me of my meth head buddies whose only goal is getting and staying high.)
Or what about the twenty-something, thirty something, even forty and fifth something “Men Fitness” cover wannabe’s at the gym who eat, sleep and shit working out (maybe to get away from their boring or nagging girlfriend, wife, boyfriend or partner), but perish the thought if you attempt to have a conversation with them about anything else but the latest supplement or med out there guaranteed to make them “bigger.” (“What, you mean the President is black?!”)
Wonder why then more females are graduating college today than males and how more and more women are assuming positions of leadership and power in both the non-profit and corporate sectors? Many are ambitious, but many are also doing it by default since the American male has largely usurped his role as the guy in charge.
Maybe all those commercials that make the guy look like a jerk versus his all-knowing wife and brainy kids aren’t too off the mark after all.
So what’s responsible for this Peter Pan “twinkization” of America?
Is it the feminist movement that emasculated today’s man?
The shift from manly blue collar “real work” to asexual, sitting-on-your-ass-all-day office work?
The lack of a male figure in so many households (either dad is constantly obsessed with his career or there’s no dad at all)? Could this be why so many young guys I see on the web are looking for a “Daddy” not for sex or dollars, but as mentors, or why many str8 guys are wussies?
I also believe that a lot of the social unrest we’ve been experiencing that has been kindled by the Ferguson affair and related shootings is actually symptomatic of a larger societal problem. Particularly since the Great Recession, many young people, mostly males, even with college degrees, feel disconnected from and disenfranchised by “The Establishment” and are looking for some cause, any cause to feel important and valued. Unemployed (the unemployment rate is two to three times the national average for guys under 30) or virtually unemployable if they dropped out of high school, they’re using these civil rights issues to express their much deeper anger with “The Man” which is manifested in immature, reckless, destructive and in the end self-destructive behavior. Frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t seen some large scale mass uprising here or in other countries where the jobless rate is even higher (like Spain where over 50% of young men are out of work).
Or maybe it’s just around the corner.
Are all these guys who grew up without a father or doomed to minimum wage jobs the true “Lost Boys” of our society?
Finally, I could go on and fill three Wikipedias with the immature, even childish behavior I’ve witnessed with guys – str8 and gay – but what really irks me are the gay guys I deal with on the web or in person who act like they’re coyish girls at a prom or self-centered egotistical brats instead of behaving like the adult men – mature adult men in most cases – the calendar says they should be.
And from where I sit, I don’t see things getting any better.
By the way, you think Wendy was really a faghag?