Monday, January 23, 2006

Peter Pan in Scarlet. Why, goddamit?

Now here's a nice thing to ruin your day.
According to the BBC, there is a Peter Pan sequel in the making, called "Peter Pan in Scarlet" and was written by one Geraldine McCaughrean, who's talent, it seems, focused on "reinterpreting" classics such as Noah's Ark, Moby Dick and The Canterbury Tales for younger readers.

Let's pull over for a second. Noah's Ark, Moby Dick and the Canterbury Tales? One is a 2 page story from the bible, the second one a huge, sprawling epic, and the third a middle-English collection of several tales of dark ages vice. Other than stomping on their heads, stripping them out to the bare bones, and then crossing out all the "naughty" things, sugar coating whatever is left and hanging it to dry, I don't see what exactly can this "reimagination" business be. Also, this is yet another writer specialising in making a living off other people's work, which is the OBVIOUS choice to crap all over J. M. Barrie's work, as any serious, original artist will never even dream of touching Peter Pan.

Back to the topic in hand. London's Great Ormond Street Hospital, holders of the Peter Pan rights decided to create a sequel, and hired the aforementioned writer to do it. Apparently raking in the money from James Matthew Barrie's novel and whatever merchandise/movies/TV series made of it wasn't enough, they are out to destroy the remains of the original by publishing a book that will have as much to do with Peter Pan as Disney's Winnie The Pooh has to do with A.A. Milne's works. That hack writer of them has apparently created a "high adventure, and swashbuckling danger". Fitting, as the original had nothing to do with any of those. Barrie's book was a story of children's view of the world, of child-like fear of growing, of infant morality, sex, and nightmares coming true. The whole pirate angle was just a way of realising those themes in what was, for the time, the popular trend in children literature. Had he lived today, he'll probably write about Superheroes and Pokemons.

They didn't stop there, mind you. From the article "The trustees stipulated the book must feature the original characters - Peter, Wendy, Tinkerbell, the rest of the Darling family and the fearsome Captain Hook." Right. Heavens forbid anyone actually READ Peter Pan, where Captain Hook DIED.
Sod it, just read for yourself:

"Michael believed longer than the other boys, though they jeered at him; so he was with Wendy when Peter came for her at the end of the first year. She flew away with Peter in the frock she had woven from leaves and berries in the Neverland, and her one fear was that he might notice how short it had become; but he never noticed, he had so much to say about himself.
She had looked forward to thrilling talks with him about old times, but new adventures had crowded the old ones from his mind.
"Who is Captain Hook?" he asked with interest when she spoke of the arch enemy.
"Don't you remember," she asked, amazed, "how you killed him and saved all our lives?"
"I forget them after I kill them," he replied carelessly.
When she expressed a doubtful hope that Tinker Bell would be glad to see her he said, "Who is Tinker Bell?"
"O Peter," she said, shocked; but even when she explained he could not remember.
"There are such a lot of them," he said. "I expect she is no more."
I expect he was right, for fairies don't live long, but they are so little that a short time seems a good while to them.
Next year he did not come for her. She waited in a new frock because the old one simply would not meet; but he never came.

No John. No Tinker Bell. No Captain Hook, only Michael, who's still almost an infant, and Wendy. And that's one year after, Peter only came back once, and that was when Wendy was already a mother herself. Thank you, noble copyright holders and trustees for "insisting" on the one aspect of the story that makes it clear that you haven't even read the original.

Oh, and it probably bears mentioning why did those noble trustees came up with this mess all of the sudden. From the BBC article: "Royalties from the new book will be split between the author and the hospital, whose ownership of the rights to Barrie's work is due to expire in 2007". Isn't that comfy? They only have one more year of milking it dry, so they give it all they got. "The success of Peter Pan in Scarlet will ensure that Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children will benefit from Barrie's legacy for many years to come" says the Hospital spokesperson. Read: we're going to lose the steady income we've been getting from Barrie's work, so we just made a new one that will compensate for this. They hired a paint-by-numbers author, gave her marching orders to create a sequel featuring all the known characters, and make it a "fun" book. They didn't want a re-visioning of Barrie's work in modern eyes. They didn't want to pursue the themes and ideas he painted in his works. They wanted a "franchise sequel", with all the original characters, and to hell with whatever integrity the name Peter Pan still has.

You know, I've seen the Disney movie, where Peter and Wendy looked like two naive teenagers and Hook was a cookie-cutter bad guy. I've seen some snippets of an animated series, which was as interesting as watered down milk. None have made me so furious as this one. Fortunately, the book is out of copyright next year, so that would be the last thing those people has to do with it. If only the same could be said of Disney.


At 23 January, 2006 12:21, Blogger triLcat said...

Hey dude. nice blog. And yes, you're absolutely right. There is no real way to make a sequel of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan.
Sadly, most Peter Pan "fans" never read the book or thought about how sad a story it really is.
And if you've read "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens," you'll know it's sadder yet.
Somehow or other, the concept of not having to grow up got stuck in someone's head as the ideal (hence Seinfeld and Friends), and the idea that that doesn't work in this world was forgotten and lost.
Thank you for a thoughtful post on the subject of Peter Pan before its Disnification.


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