Michael Jackson,
Peter Pan &
‘The Spirit of Youth’ [THREAD]
Yesterday I watched “Peter Pan” for the first time in years. He was Michael Jackson’s favorite Disney character, the one he identified the most with, and by watching it now, as an adult, I hoped to achieve a deeper understanding of Michael’s motivations in his life.
After watching it I came to the conclusion that the association of Michael with Peter Pan, one that he made himself, has been portrayed inaccurately by society. In this thread I will talk about this apparent distortion, and what I believe was his true connection to Peter Pan.
Before we get to the thread, it should be noted that: 1) It only covers the first Peter Pan film; 2) I’m a social scientist, not a trained psychologist or psychotherapist. My thoughts are merely observations on individual and social behavior.
It was in the infamous 2003 Martin Bashir documentary that Michael famously said “I am Peter Pan.” Michael associated the character with “youth, childhood, never growing up, magic, (…) wonderment (...)”, things he had “never grown out of loving.”
Bashir’s highly criticized take on Michael’s life and personality illustrates the public discourse on the issue. When speaking of Neverland, his 2,700-acre ranch in California, Bashir says that it’s “literally paradise to a ten-year-old child, but Michael Jackson is now 44.”
Out of the aspects that Michael mentioned in relation to Peter Pan, Bashir chose to emphasize “never growing up”. While that was an important aspect, there is evidence that points to him having a different interpretation of “never growing up” than Bashir.
Bashir’s perspective can be traced back to a 1983 book called “The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up". In it, the author analyzed young men who he described as narcissists that avoided taking on responsibilities and having real relationships, refusing to grow up.
As we’ve discussed in a previous thread, that is not, by far, Michael’s profile. To the contrary. Michael started working at the age of 5. In his autobiography, “Moonwalk”, he talks about the times he had to perform late at night and then go to school the next morning.
He also recalls being inside the studio at a young age and watching kids play outside. The burden of responsibility, the feeling of having to abstain from doing what one really wants in order to fulfill a commitment, was imposed on him even before he reached his teenage years.
And unfortunately for Michael, childhood does not wait around for when one has the time to enjoy it. Those blissful years of innocence, joy and carelessness go by with the blink of an eye, causing in those that missed it a feeling of wanting to go back in time and stop the clock.
People say that your thirties are the first time you really feel the gap between who you were then and who you are now. You look back to your childhood and miss everything that surrounded you. You miss the magic, the wonder, the fresh eyes eager to explore and enjoy the world.
Michael was on the verge of turning thirty when he bought and moved into his Neverland ranch. He designed it to encapsulate everything that he loved and that he had been unable to enjoy as a child, due to his work, and, as an adult, due to his unprecedented fame.
But Michael's interest in childhood-related things and his love for children, who were a huge source of inspiration to him, had a deeper meaning than it appeared. In the past, he spoke about children’s perspective on life, one that isn't yet molded by social norms of adults.
As an artist and as an individual, Michael was invested in keeping this fresh perspective. This is where we finally circle back to the Peter Pan film.
The film is centered around the Darlings, a London-based family in which all members but the father believe in the existence of Peter Pan. To Mrs Darling, he represents ‘the spirit of youth’, while to the children (Wendy, John and Michael) Peter Pan is a living entity.
Mrs Darling’s take on Peter Pan seemed particularly interesting. While to the children imagination and magic were a part of life (hence their belief in a flesh-and-bone Peter), to her, an adult, he represents an idea, a feeling of youth, when one can dream and believe in magic.
The next scene, in which Peter appears in the children’s room and teaches them to fly (“You think of a wonderful thought...All it takes is faith and trust...And just a little bit of pixie dust”) emphasizes the powers of magic, imagination and positivity in transforming reality.
Peter is shown throughout the film as an usher to a world of wonder, an ageless entity that exists to remind people that anything can be achieved if you only allow yourself to let go and dream.
While I won’t go into the rest of the film, which takes Peter and the children to Neverland (a place where “You’ll never grow up” and “All your happy dreams come true”), because it’s mostly plot-driven and less symbolic, there’s a lot to unpack from these scenes.
My theory is that, while Michael was visibly fixated on childhood and wished he could go back in time to actually live his, his identification with Peter Pan had more to do with maintaining the ‘spirit of youth’ than with literally not growing up.
This makes more sense to me than the simplistic approach that says that his mental development stopped at age ten. After all, he enjoyed aspects of adult life that are out of reach for children, also making an effort to rethink social norms of adulthood that impair imagination.
Michael was not stuck in time, nor did he shy away from responsibility – he lived an adult life from the age of five. He had stable relationships, was a savvy business man and a highly accomplished professional, on which many people depended.
In the final scene of Peter Pan, the Darlings come home to find their children excitedly talking about their adventures in Neverland. The father, the ultimate pragmatic, looks outside the window and sees a pirate ship floating in the sky. He becomes a believer.
To those interested, here are the links to my other threads about MJ:
The viewer is left with a lingering question, one that certainly crossed Michael’s mind: what great adventures could we live if only we allowed ourselves to dream and have faith? //

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh
 

Keep Current with Manu Bezamat

Manu Bezamat Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!

PDF

Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @manuelabezamat

9 May
The Story and the Meaning Behind Michael Jackson’s Panther Dance [THREAD]
The Panther Dance is a 4-minute segment in the end of Michael Jackson’s Black or White music video. It's considered one of his most iconic moments, both for the stunning display of his artistic abilities and for the heavy symbolism involving race and identity.
Premiering worldwide on November 14, 1991, Black or White and the Panther Dance are simultaneously the product and the cause of an urgent debate about prejudice and racial inequality, a debate that started that year with the brutal beating of Rodney King.
Read 73 tweets
25 Feb
Michael Jackson,
Otherness &
Diversity [a thread]
During his lifetime and even in his death, Michael Jackson has been accused of voluntarily erasing his black features in an attempt at “becoming white”, and therefore gaining access to the exclusive world of the dominating elite.
His critics paint him out to be nothing short of a bigot, someone whose admiration for the standards of white America made him not only alter his own appearance but also see the world through these lenses.
Read 67 tweets
19 Feb
Michael Jackson,
Raça &
Etnicidade [thread]
A cor da pele do Michael Jackson tem sido repetidamente objeto de rumores e especulações que foram usados para sujar sua imagem, com uma premissa equivocada - de que ele queria "virar branco".
Mas será que o Michael Jackson realmente queria "virar branco"? Essa thread tem o objetivo de provar que não apenas ele abraçava suas raízes negras, como ele não teria conseguido mudar de raça, nem se quisesse.
Read 58 tweets
14 Jan
The real story behind Michael Jackson’s Beatles catalogue purchase [THREAD]
Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney had met years before the King of Pop famously bought the Beatles Catalogue. In 1976, the two had bumped into each other at an LA party, where Paul offered Michael a song he’d written for him. That song was called ‘Girlfriend’.
The two exchanged numbers and vowed to work together, but their busy schedules kept that from happening at the time. Paul ended up recording ‘Girlfriend’ with his band Wings, and Michael recorded it later, for his first adult solo album, Off the Wall (1979).
Read 55 tweets
10 Dec 19
Michael Jackson,
Duality &
His sexual identity [a thread]
Michael Jackson's sexuality has both fascinated and intrigued the public ever since the singer became a young man. From the soft-spoken boyish charm of his disco-era days to the explicit sensuality of his later performances, it seemed as if everybody had fallen under his spell.
But as with most things in his life, his sexuality wasn't free of controversy. In a society bounded by stereotypes, this curiosity could also take a turn for the worst when faced with the inevitable complexity of human identity. And where there is doubt, there is often judgment.
Read 62 tweets
14 Nov 19
Michael Jackson,
The media &
His appearance [a thread]
Michael Jackson’s appearance has been at the center of the public eye for decades – and more than often it has been seen in a negative light. But is the singer to blame for the negative attention he gets?
This thread has the goal of showing how his self/public image, which belonged to him and him alone, was highjacked by the media through decades of slander and bullying, and how, in 2019, it is more than time that we gave it back to its rightful owner.
Read 63 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!


This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!