When I was a child, I wanted to be Peter Pan.
As news spread about the upcoming “Peter Pan Live” production by NBC , there have been a lot of tweets and comments questioning the decision to have Peter Pan played by a female; in this production Allison Williams of HBO’s “Girls” is Peter. For some children, especially girls of a certain age, Peter Pan has always been a girl, starting with Mary Martin in 1954.
Historically, from the beginning of Barrie’s play, females were cast in the role of Peter for practical reasons related to the theater of the time. (Aisha Harris in Slate Magazine wrote about this in an article, “Why is Peter Pan played by a woman?”)
The same children who grew up with Mary Martin also grew up with a boy Peter Pan in the classic Disney film. Still, I have to admit that when Robin Williams appeared as a live action male Peter Pan in the movie Hook, it seemed a little odd to me. The only other boy Peter Pan before him had been a cartoon.The years after Hook have featured Kathy Rigby in what seems to be a never-ending traveling production of a female Peter Pan on stage while Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s boy Peter Pan is a popular character for young children for the last decade in the Peter and the Starcatchers series.
So Peter started out as a flying girl and became a flying boy and in the upcoming movie, Pan, he’s a boy again. Why does it matter? Look at the great photo of Allison Williams dressed as Pan and you know what the character means to girls as well as boys. Girls want to fly like boys, to have adventures, to live perpetually as a child. Just as boys want to swashbuckle and fly and live perpetually in those early years of wonder. Or maybe both males and females just don’t want to let go of that essence of childhood.
So let’s put our hands together and clap, to bring back to life the idea that any child of any sex can inhabit the character who does all the things he or she wants to do. If we just believe…
You can own a copy of a modern re-imagining of the story of Peter Pan and Wendy Darling. Click here to find out more about The Island of Lost Children.