Peter Pan And Tintin: Icons For Today?
“Peter Pan is a lesbian.”
So said a seven-year-old to me, after he had seen the local pantomime. Sitting with my own seven-year-old who wouldn’t have a clue what a lesbian is, I didn’t know where to put my face.
“I’m right,” he added, “Peter Pan is played by a girl.”
All I thought was, just wait until you meet the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella.
We saw Peter Pan a couple of days ago. It was a high quality production, with all the usual panto formulae. Oh yes it was …
But whereas in past generations Peter Pan was seen as inadequate because he didn’t want to grow up, is he now a hero? He conquers Captain Hook while remaining a child. Are we in a culture that doesn’t want to grow up? Having spent time before the performance in two or three shops selling computer games, where our children purchased games and accessories for their Nintendos, but where the majority of purchasers were adults, I do wonder whether we are filling our society with Peter Pans.
On the other hand, yesterday we took the children to see the incredible Spielberg animation of The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. That painted a more positive image of youth. Tintin is young, but in a job as a reporter (whereas Peter Pan explicitly doesn’t want an office job). Yet he is the one who shows courage to help the older, alcoholic Captain Haddock – with the one exception of where he wants to give up and Haddock tells him, ‘When you face a brick wall, push through it.’
The New Testament expects people to grow into maturity. Paul’s goal for the Colossians is that he will be able to present everyone mature in Christ. In Ephesians 4, there is a notion of the church ‘growing up’. Is maturity an increasingly alien notion today, when we say that 40 is the new 30 and 70 is the new 50? Do we prefer not to delay gratification but to keep on gratifying ourselves? Is that the inevitable consequence of consumerism, or is this all just about increased life expectancy? Which model do we offer young people, young Christians – Peter Pan or Tintin?
Either way, what would Christian maturity look like today, and in what ways would it be counter-cultural?