Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lost Girls: Wendy Darling III


When Wendy is ‘captured’ in S&M roleplay with Peter and Tinker Bell, placing her in the position of Barrie’s Native-American character Tiger Lily, she imagines herself, quite literally, taken by pirates:

I couldn’t sleep for cabin-girl fancies, the maddest, filthiest things. On tilting decks they’d make me watch while pirates fondled and sucked each other, or all spent into a tankard I’d be forced to drain. All through the creaking night they’d fuck me, old negro men and little Malay boys...

And that hook of a hand, dragging down my underthing, probing my bottom. I’d frig myself there in the darkness, horrified and ashamed at the thing I wanted done to me. A-and the shame was exciting. The shadows slipped their long fingers up me, and could feel for themselves that I was ready...


Shame, degradation, violence and loss of control characterize Wendy’s fantasies. It is when she is at her most debased that Wendy feels most empowered by her own sexual potency, and effectively ‘allowed’ to enjoy it, sexual abandon being forced upon her, absolving her of any responsibilityand thereby enabling her to sublimate and harness her sexual guilt for her own pleasure.


With this comes Wendy’s own horror as she becomes aware of her parents’ sexual games with the nanny. Wendy is both disturbed by the exposure of their Edwardian upper/middle-class hypocrisies, and aroused by it, remarking 'I suppose that was how everyone must secretly behave.' However, Wendy cannot reconcile her sexual pleasure with her sense of self. Her repression leads to her inability to believe that sexual desire and goodness can coexist, undermining her conception of her whole world:

After everything my brothers and I had been doing, our family’s respectable façade seemed such a sham. So did society. How could everyone act so normally when they all had this heat between their legs; these things they wanted so to do?


Although sometimes joyful and capable of inspiring love, for Wendy, desire can also be violent and ugly. As Wendy masturbates, remembering her father kissing the nanny, her disgust at her father’s betrayal and her own arousal manifests itself into ‘a crashing, angry passion which I didn’t quite understand myself.’ Wendy’s shame is compounded by the voyeuristic intrusion of the Captain, who spies on the lost boys and the Darlings in the spinney. When Wendy realizes this in the most violating and intrusive way possible, with the Captain ejaculating onto her back, Wendy suddenly sees the desire of others as disgusting and ridiculous, saying; 'it was suddenly so silly and so ugly I almost wept.'


Moore and Gebbie cleverly juxtapose Wendy’s fantasies of submission, borne out of her guilt, with the experiences of Peter, who we discover is a child prostitute, servicing the paedophile Captain. The Darlings’ games in the spinney are brought to a crushing halt when Annabel (Tinker Bell) is found raped, we presume by Captain Hook. When Wendy finds the Captain masturbating in the spinney, in the place where Tinker Bell’s body was found, she is plagued and disturbed by her own rape fantasies: 'I was so afraid that he’d catch me, rape me, hurt me...but wasn’t that what I wanted? What I’d dreamed about? What I’d gone there for?'


Wendy’s self-disgust at her fantasies leads her to question, 'I-If I could think such things, then didn’t I...deserve them?' But as the Captain closes in her on her, Wendy is brought to the realization that ‘I could think about what I liked. That didn’t mean I wanted it to really happen to me.’


The power and freedom of the privacy headspace of sexual fantasy enables Wendy to confront Hook, for in defining her boundary separating desire and fantasy, she is able to attack him for his abuse and violence against the lost boys and Tinker Bell. In a wry play on Barrie’s characterisation of Hook as plagued by the agent of his death, the crocodile with the ticking clock buried in his belly, Wendy defeats the Captain, reducing him to tears and impotency when she says:

Children won’t realize you’re inadequate. You can pretend you’re still young like them, that the clock isn’t ticking. That’s why you fuck children, why you dye your hair. You’re afraid of women. And you’re afraid of getting old.


Gebbie’s final fantasy spread shows Hook being swallowed by a large jawed, fleshy crocodile, its mouth painted to resemble an adult vagina (it even has a beard and moustache) swallowing the Captain whole. Although not exactly what you’d call a happy ending, there is something triumphant in Wendy recognising the split between her real and fantasy desire. But the inherent risk and danger that comes with the potential happiness of sexual maturity and fulfilment remains.


In Neverland, one need never age. Eternal youth and escapism awaits those who dare to fly free from all parental control. But Neverland is a place of freedom, not innocence, and freedom can be a dangerous thing. The lost boys’ desire for Wendy as a real, flesh and blood mother, is as heartbreaking in Lost Girls as it is in Peter Pan. In her maternal, and sexual love for them, she both redeems and comforts, corrupts and threatens. While Moore and Gebbie remain woolly on whether the children’s sexual games actually occur, for our heroine, they are presented as threatening only in so far as they threaten Wendy’s sense of herself, as we are never offered the perspective of any other character. What we are told though, is that the figures of Peter, Tinker Bell and possibly the other lost boys are exploited and abused by the Captain. The last time we see Peter in Lost Girls, soliciting outside a public lavatory, “his face looked...harder. Although still a boy, Peter is quite literally, lost.


***


Although there is a strong case for the argument that Wendy’s story of Peter is simply her fantasy, one could also read it as her way of sublimating the very real, unseen, abuse that she actually suffered from her father’s business associate, the Captain. This secret, repressed pain may lurk, still buried beneath fantasy and narrative, at the heart of Wendy’s confession. Her defeat of the Captain as a young woman supports this argument, and it goes some of the way to explaining her anger at her parents throughout the story and her own feelings of guilt and self-hatred. I think it’s entirely possible (although also reductive) to read Lost Girls as three testimonies of abuse, for exploitation of power never lies far from the centre of its protagonists’ fantasies/recollections.



However far you choose to take this interpretation, ultimately, although able to confront the Captain’s sexual abuse and corruption of the children in the spinney, Wendy is not able to reconcile and distinguish this perversion of sex with her own desires. Terrified and repelled, Wendy retreats;


My own desire had scared me so badly that I locked it all away in the darkness beyond those railings. Married Harold, twenty years my senior, because desire...w-well, frankly, it wouldn’t be an issue.


Thanks to Top Shelf for letting me use the pics...i.e. please don't sue me....

and no thanks to blogger, which always messes up the formatting on my blog posts :(



1 Comments:

At 15 June, 2009 21:00 , Blogger darling vicarage said...

hello everyone. these comments were deleted as they were directing my wholesome readers (i.e., probably no one) to porn sites. ah, don't you just love the internet?

 

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