Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination

Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination

Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination

Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination


Over a century after its first stage performance, Peter Pan has become deeply embedded in Western popular culture, as an enduring part of childhood memories, in every part of popular media, and in commercial enterprises.

Since 2003 the characters from this story have had a highly visible presence in nearly every genre of popular culture: two major films, a literary sequel to the original adventures, a graphic novel featuring a grown-up Wendy Darling, and an Argentinean novel about a children's book writer inspired by J. M. Barrie. Simultaneously, Barrie surfaced as the subject of two major biographies and a feature film. The engaging essays in Second Star to the Right approach Pan from literary, dramatic, film, television, and sociological perspectives and, in the process, analyze his emergence and preservation in the cultural imagination.



“It’s only a play, mother, it doesn’t matter.”

—Peter Llewelyn Davies, Finding Neverland
(dir. Marc Forster, 2005)

“Never Neverlands beneath our skin”

—Lindsay Mac, “Small Revolutions”

WHEN I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD, my figure skating club chose to stage Peter Pan on ice for its annual show. Because I was by far the smallest girl who could do a camel spin, I was chosen to skate the part of Tinker Bell. My mother spent three weeks of all-nighters sewing my fairy costume, a tiny green dress with a satin petal skirt. In it, on the day of the show, I felt downright puckish—mischievous, small, pretty, and awfully proud to be skating with stars like Kitty and Peter Carruthers whom I had only seen on TV. Better than all of that, though, was the ultimate reward for playing Tinker Bell: I didn’t just get to skate, I got to fly. Slightly more than two decades later and a foot and a half taller, I’m still in thrall to the story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up and his flitting fairy friend. But I know now that, like the adult Wendy, I’ve committed the ultimate sin and grown too big and too old to fly. This book attempts to regain the buoyant and compelling sense of excitement that was so easy to have when I was seven and the obvious thing to do was to fly across the ice next to my Peter, retrieve the shadow that he had so carelessly left behind when he was flirting with that wretched little girl, and leave for Neverland.

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