Have you ever read Peter Pan? Not the Disney story, but the original novel by J. M. Barrie? While I do consider it a work of literary genius, I would hesitate to hand it to young children. I mean, let’s be honest. Never Never Land is kind of creepy. Indians kidnap children and the pirates try to kill everyone, while the fairies drink and have orgies (yep, you read that right). Tinkerbell calls Wendy a word that starts with a “B” and rhymes with “witch”. Peter Pan himself isn’t much better. He is a fun character, but he isn’t intended to be a hero or a role model. In fact, he can be kind of a jerk in his childish ways. At the end of the book, all the children, including the Lost Boys, realize that they need to leave Never Never Land and grow up. Peter Pan is the only one who remains behind, and the reader is actually left feeling a little bit sorry for him. Neverland is not a place to stay, because people are supposed to grow up. But for some reason, (probably thanks in part to Disney), Neverland and Peter Pan have become idealized symbols of eternal youth in our culture.
I’ve noticed a trend in my reading. People are taking a lot longer to grow up than they used to. Did you know that the concept of being a teenager didn’t exist until the late 1800’s? Before that a person was either a child or an adult, but nothing in between. Brett and Alex Harris have already covered the the rise of the teenager in their writings, so I encourage people to check out their article The Myth of Adolescence on The Rebelution website for more information. Or better yet, read their book! (See Resources page). Seriously though, at least read the article. Teens are a relatively new phenomenon, in the grand scheme of history.