January 30, 2010

Peter Pan = harmless fantasy?

We get e-mail:Subj: Peter Pan

I was going to ask your opinion, but found an entire article devoted to it.

I'm normally pretty hard on this sort of thing but give Peter Pan a pass because it's a "Boys fantasy tale" seen through the eyes of Victorian, turn of the century boys.

Boys play(ed) Pirates, and Indians and pretended they could fly. It's just a silly boy story from over 100 years ago.
My reply:

You can say any stereotype in isolation is harmless, just for fun, etc., etc. We've heard this rationalization over and over and it's unconvincing every time.

I've never said any one stereotype will kill someone. Obviously, the effect of stereotypes is cumulative. When people see the same images repeated a hundred, a thousand, or a million times, why would anyone disbelieve them?

It doesn't even matter if someone has seen or read Peter Pan because they're learning Native stereotypes from a myriad of similar sources. These sources include all sorts of "fantastical" movies, cartoons, and books. If you don't think people learn stereotypes from these sources, where do you think they learn them from?

Stereotypes are especially harmful to children, who don't have the adult ability to weigh or filter them. Which is why every expert talks about their impact on the young. For more on the subject, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence.

For more on Indians, pirates, and Peter Pan, see Stereotypes in Peter Pan Sequel, Liv Tyler = Cherokee Pocahontas?, and Indians, Smurfs, and Fairies.

1 comment:

Dale Sams said...

You're missing my point Rob, and making a pat argument against the typical "'oh cmon whats the harm!'argument" Which is a simpleton argument I'd never make.

It is what it is. There's a meta-point to Peter Pan you're missing. Should 'Mad Men' not show smoking? No. People smoked back then.

Should Peter Pan not show kids playing Pirates and Indians? No. that's what a turn-of-the-century kid who never grew up would do.

As for kids, I wouldn't let my kid see Peter Pan without me. It's a pretty gruesome tale actually.

Dale Sams