Peter and Wendy: Millennials in Neverland

I’ve seen the first four episodes of The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy, and I have no idea what to make of it. It’s a lot of fun. I’m just not sure what it is yet.

Top: Kyle Walters as Peter, Paula Rhodes as Wendy. Bottom: Graham Kurtz as John, Brennan Murray as Micheal, and Lovlee Carroll as Lily. Image via The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy.

Here’s the description from the webseries’ official site:

Everyone has to grow up, right?  Well, not if Peter Pan has anything to say about it!  Peter, a late-twenties man-child and comic book artist living in the small town of Neverland Ohio, has three life goals: 1)  NEVER GROW UP.  2) Have as much fun as humanly possible while doing as little work as possible.  3) Win the heart of his best friend, Wendy Darling.  With his friends John, Michael, Lily and his fairy, Tinkerbell, Peter is nailing goals 1 and 2.  Goal 3, however, is a bit trickier. Wendy Darling, an advice vlogger and overall go-getter, is tired of the never-changing small town of Neverland Ohio and wants to see the world, to become… an adult.  It’s Peter vs Growing Up in the battle for Wendy! But is growing up really the enemy? Or is it the solution?

I heard about Peter and Wendy through Socially Awkward Darcy, a Facebook fanpage for Pemberley Digital’s projects. Producer Jenni Powell also produced The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and lead actor Kyle Walters played Edward Denham in last summer’s webseries/RPG Welcome to Sanditon. This has a different feel than Pemberley Digital’s canon, though. It’s like comparing USA Network to Comedy Central.

And I like Comedy Central. Peter and Wendy made me laugh. A lot. This is exactly how you’d picture Peter Pan and the Darlings if they were fifteen years older and living in modern America and literally nothing else was changed about them. Peter is goofy, cheeky, and goes back and forth between charming and infuriating. John takes everything too seriously, but is really no less childish than Peter or Michael. He’s essentially Dwight K. Schrute, right down to being Assistant [To The] Editor-in-Chief of his father’s newspaper. He’s contrasted and complemented by Michael, who is Michael Scott as played by Michael Cera. In the fourth episode, Michael and Peter skip work to play video games and share a “magic” brownie. (Yeah, it’s that kind of show.) Wendy, mature to a fault and surrogate mom to her brothers, could’ve easily be written as the resident shrewish buzzkill. She isn’t. She’s quirky, sweet, and fun, and when she tells the boys (and us) that everyone has to grow up sometime, we sympathize with her and want to see Peter and her brothers reach this epiphany, too. So far she’s my favorite character.

Lily Bagha, Tiger Lily’s counterpart, has only appeared in the series trailer and opening credit sequence so far. I’m especially interested to see how the series handles her character. I’m very happy to see that they cast a woman of color, which is more than I can say about another Peter Pan reimagining in the works. This “Indian princess” appears to be of the East Indian variety. I’m not sure how I feel about that. As hugely problematic as Tiger Lily’s portrayal has been in various incarnations, she’s always had a special place in my heart as a female fantasy character whose appearance and ancestry were similar to  mine. I can’t help feeling like Peter and Wendy changed Lily’s background as a cop-out, like it was easier to avoid portraying a Native American character poorly by just not portraying one at all. But I can understand and respect the choice to err on the side of sensitivity. And, like I said, at least she’s still brown. I’m withholding judgment and willing to be convinced.

The weirdest part of this wonderfully weird show is Tinkerbell. We never see her. She’s always on the other side of the camera in Peter’s videos. And she’s a fairy. An actual fairy. A tiny glittery creature that flies and communicates through chiming sounds. And no one sees this as odd or remarkable in any way. At first I was like, “Does this mean the show is set in a parallel universe where everyone knows fairies exist and is cool with that? Does it mean there’s a deeper reason none of the characters have left Neverland, OH? Is Neverland like The Village? Or The Truman Show? Is Tinkerbell a mentally challenged human that everyone pretends is a tiny glittery fairy? Is Peter a mentally challenged human whose friends refuse to contradict his pet delusion?” Regardless, I loved the fact that Tink’s personality is exactly what it was in the Disney cartoon: a catty, jealous bitch who adores Peter and is possibly plotting against Wendy’s life. She cracked me up then and she cracks me up now.

Upon my second viewing, I discovered the Kensington Chronicle’s website and had my questions answered. Fairies are a real thing in the Neverland universe. The Chronicle’s website describes Tinkerbell as the only fairy officially in residence, but that didn’t stop a number of roleplaying Twitter accounts for fairy characters from popping up. Yes, it looks like Peter and Wendy is going to follow Welcome to Sanditon‘s footsteps in incorporating a social media roleplaying game. I hope they do a better job than Sanditon at keeping the main story as the focus. I found Sanditon hard to follow without being involved in the RPG aspect, which I know is hypocritical since I was one of the first people to join Harriet’s Music Club in Emma Approved. (That reminds me, I need to record a “Breathe and Believe” cover this week.) (Update 6/30/14 – I did.) Anyway, click on the Kensington Chronicle even if you aren’t into RP. It has backstory info like the fairy stuff I just shared, Peter’s cartooning, John’s column, and links to Michael’s Tumblr and Wendy’s Pinterest. And, of course, all the characters are on Twitter.

Want to check out The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy for yourself? Here’s the series trailer:

And here’s the beginning of the full playlist:

I don’t know if I believe yet, but so far, I’m clapping.

4 responses to “Peter and Wendy: Millennials in Neverland”

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