There are some icons and characters that simply won’t “grow up” and leave our cultural fascination and pop culture. Peter Pan is one of those figures according to a recent book co-edited by Les Friedman, professor of media and society. In his most recent scholarly work, “Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination,” Friedman and co-editor Allison Kavey, associate professor of history at CUNY, John Jay, interweave chapters that tell the immortal story of a certain spritely boy as he has appeared in literature, film and television for nearly 100 years.
“At first, I was resistant to the idea-I thought that ‘Peter Pan’ was a trifling topic,” he explained, saying Kavey continued to ask him to consider until, eventually, she offered to stop asking if he could find five worthwhile scholarly articles about “Peter Pan.” All that Friedman found were a limited number of outdated and one-dimensional articles on the topic.
The two dug deeper and explored the Peter Pan story from the perspective of cultural studies, World War I, the stage, children’s literature, The Walt Disney Company and animation, film and television.
In addition to lacking analytic approaches, they discovered the topics themselves also were limited and believed there to be many aspects of the story yet to be studied. “For instance, Tinker Bell and the advent of electricity, the evolution of Captain Hook as well as Peter Pan and his relationship to Gay Studies.”
Explaining the aim of the book, Friedman said, “We wanted to put all of this and more under an academic lens, calling on experts from across disciplines and across the U.S. and even England; the book’s interdisciplinary nature is a good example of the liberal arts tradition at work.”
In one chapter, Friedman explores the story of Peter Pan as it appears in film. In particular, he examines the evolution of Captain Hook from not existing in the original story to taking Peter Pan’s place as the story’s villain.
In addition to Friedman, Professor of Media and Society Linda Robertson wrote an insightful article about Peter Pan and how the character relates to World War I.
Friedman received both his Ph.D. and master’s degree from Syracuse University and his bachelor’s degree from Alfred University. He is the author of “Citizen Spielberg” and “American Cinema of the 1970s” and editor of “Fires Were Started” and “Cultural Sutures: Medicine and Media.” His previous teaching experience includes Syracuse University, Upstate Medical Center and Northwestern University.