New Ways to Fly: Stop Touching Me!

As usual, once my brain latches onto something, it tends to go into mental pitbull mode. Peter Pan is no better at escaping those steely obsessive jaws, it seems.

How obsessive? How about turning a gag line into a mission statement?

There’s a bit right after Peter meets Wendy, when he says “You mustn’t touch me! No one must ever touch me!”

“Why not?” asks Wendy.

“I don’t know,” Peter finishes, getting the laugh.

But I think there’s more to all that than an admittedly-funny bit, though not in the literal sense. Peter’s eternal youth, I’d contend, is inextricably tied to not being touched emotionally, to never making lasting connections, as that way lies responsibility, and thus mortality.

You might object that Peter’s got the gathered Lost Boys, but remember, he’s willing to kill one of those boys when he hurts Wendy accidentally. I’m not sure Peter has what you’d call familial ties to the boys, so much as he has a group of playmates.

Indeed, when Peter finally does make a deeper connection, that’s the only point in the show where there’s any genuine threat to Peter’s safety. When Wendy first tries to take the Lost Boys back to the real world, despite lying to her about it, Peter’s devastated by her departure. He cares for her, in a way deeper than the frivolity of a playmate. It’s a new and overwhelming experience, and he cries himself to sleep.

That, of course, is when Hook finally has his chance, sneaking into the boys’ home to plant the poison from which only fairy intervention and a round of applause can save him.

It’s a bittersweet revelation which the end of the show underscores again, that eternal youth, while full of fun and frolic, takes its own toll. No, Peter won’t grow old. He won’t die. But only so long as he can manage to retain his distance from others. Only so long as he fails to be touched.

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