Continuation of Peter Pan its Depiction of Childhood and Gender

I’d like you to take a look at my favourite scene from Peter Pan in this clip:

One of the things I wish to address is gender roles. Watching this film, I wondered if the gender roles were reversed, would Wendy still be as hesitant to leave home? Would Peter still be a reckless and adventurous character encouraging Wendy to “come away to neverland” with him. I asked some kids aged 10-11 . . . Here are the responses.

When 10-year-old Alexis was asked about this, she indicated that it would have been different if the roles were reversed. She said that girls are more sensitive and think things through more often while boys tend to “wing it”. When asked what made her feel that way, she said that this was what she saw in “movies and real life”.

11-year-old Ethan said that there was a “slightly higher chance” that Wendy would have been less hesitant, but he felt that adventurousness or cautiousness in boys versus girls “depends on the person”.

Eden, aged 10 states that “some boys don’t think before they act”. She stated however, that maybe this was because of the television shows that they watched.

Adults, too; offered their opinion. Trevor, aged 20, stated the following:

“Boys and girls are socialized differently; therefore, based on the youth of both characters, Peter as Wendy would not be so eager to invite the others to fly, and Wendy as Peter would be less hesitant. The reason for this is that taking risks toward the formation of one’s identity is a staple of patriarchy, to the point of stepping on the backs of others to achieve desired ends. Female socialization is more moderate, stemming from the deeply entrenched idea that a girl needs to be cared for and protected, and so do boys, but to a lesser degree.”

23 year old Joanna stated,

“If Wendy was Wally and Peter, Patricia, I believe Wally would not have shown as much concern for leaving his parents behind. It seems to be young boys are hardly ever portrayed as responsible; usually they are portrayed as wild, bratty, and rash. Little girls, on the other had, tend to be portrayed as more responsible, like we see with Wendy (and not just with Wendy, think of Katara from Avatar: the Last Airbender as another example). I do not think Patricia could be portrayed much more differently than Peter, since a child who refused to grow up has to be portrayed as quite the rebel.”

Not only is gender an issue, but it cannot be argued that the film is, to some degree, based upon an adult’s romanticized idea of a childhood filled with storytelling, fun, and adventures, and most of all, “never having to worry about grown-up things”. The flaw with this of course, is that you have to BE a grown-up to understand what these grown-up things are. Secondly, do children really never want to grow up? Here’s what the kids quoted above had to say.

10-year-old Eden definitely disagreed when asked if most kids never want to grow up. She says kids know that “at certain ages you can do more things”. “Some people just wanna be more grown up ‘cause they feel like they’re being treated like a baby all the time” she says.
When 10-year-old Alexis was asked if most kids want to stay kids, she stated that she disagreed and that most kids do want to grow up. She said personally, she wants to grow up so she can do things that kids can’t, like “voting and driving”.

Ethan, aged 11, concluded that initially, most kids don’t want to grow up. “When they’re young they don’t wanna grow up”, he says. But he also states that when they reach the ages of 11 or 12, they can’t wait to be teens.

And the Adults?

“ Wishing to grow up presupposes that children have some sort of idea of what growing up entails. This is not the case. Children experience wonder at what is new, and growing up falls under this category; therefore, it is not realistic to suppose that most children do not wish to grow up.” (Trevor, 20)

“As for the desire to grow up, I think it really depends on the child to what degree they want to grow up. However I do think there is still, to some degree, a want to grow up in each child since adulthood holds the promise of more freedom. For me, while I did enjoy some aspects of being a child, I saw growing up as an adventure in itself, but most importantly I knew that adulthood held with it the promise of more autonomy (by this I mean such simple things as choosing what you want to eat, when you want to go to sleep, money, etc.) and that was one thing I really wanted. In particular, I used to despise school and as such I could not wait to grow up and be rid of it. Ironically, I grew to enjoy it much more in my latter years. So yes, Pan and western media in general, tend to romanticized childhood as the time in your life when you are the most free because all you do is play and have fun. This however is not true, because school and household responsibilities often get in the way, and while a child may have more time, they have fewer resources and are fully dependent on the adult to make the most of their free time. In the end, adulthood is probably when you have the most freedom, because while you do need to work, you have the autonomy to do as you wish with the resources that you do have. Of course, poverty makes both adulthood and childhood unbearable, but in that case neither is better than the other.” (Joanna, 23)

Tell us what you think! Can’t wait to see your comments on the blog. Those of you with youtube accounts may feel free to comment directly on our channel! http://www.youtube.com/user/ChildMediaAnalysis

Cheers,

-Wilhelmina

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1 Response to “Continuation of Peter Pan its Depiction of Childhood and Gender”


  1. 1 daffiepie March 1, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I definitely agree with what both mina and joanna have to say on this situation!

    I really do believe that it would totally different if the roles were reversed for the same reasons as you guys stated!
    🙂


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