Usually, I stick purely to the super-stuff, but I will admit to a soft spot for fairy tales and the new trend towards live-action Disney adaptations. While I'm most looking forward to seeing Beauty and the Beast brought to life, I'll admit to being pretty excited about the next one; Pan, opening summer 2015.
This week, we saw the first few character posters, as well as a full trailer, and I have to say - I'm getting pretty stoked!
What's there not to be excited about? Origin stories, pirates, mermaids, and magic - it's a perfect combination. I love that this is both a Hook and a Pan origin story (from the looks of things) and that it crosses between our world and Neverland. I'll admit, I wasn't that thrilled with the Pan story we saw in Once Upon a Time (although Hook is absolutely incredible!), so I'm definitely in the mood for something a little less...demon-y. I'm also intrigued by the "miner" storyline - what are they mining for? Why would pirates want to mine, anyway? Why is this mining never mentioned in the later Pan tales? It's all very compelling.
However, there is one particularly jarring element to both the trailer and the posters that I'm having a little difficulty getting my head around. Tiger Lily. Is. White.
You all know Tiger Lily - the sadly oft-ignored "Indian Princess" from the book, who has thus far really only appeared in the animated film from the 50's, noticeably absent from both Hook (1991) and Once Upon a Time, although making an appearance in the 2003 Peter Pan (looking like a boy. It bothered me for the entire movie). Usually passed over as a female lead in favor of one of the Darling women and/or Tinkerbell, I'm always hoping to see Tiger Lily given the attention she deserves.
As a child watching the animated movie, Tiger Lily was by far my favorite character. I've always been drawn toward the female characters (big shock there, seeing as I'm a woman), and Peter Pan was one of the few Disney animated movies that didn't really center on one.
We have Wendy, who is arguably the heroine, but who is also an absolute pill. How would I (a tree-climing, mud-fighting tomboy) relate to this priss in a blue nightdress who darns socks and complains all the time? Even her "motherly" role (that was supposed to make her more appealing) failed to hit the mark for me. Perhaps it was just that I have never been the motherly type - I think I owned precisely one baby doll as a child, and was as confused about what to do with it then as if someone had given it to me now. Clearly, what they needed were some Lost Girls to appeal to viewers like me (perhaps an option for another live-action film in future - I would see that!).
As for Tinkerbell, well, she is adorable and possessing of a pair of wings, which puts her leaps and bounds ahead of Wendy in my personal popularity stakes, but she is also bitchy, jealous, traitorous and generally kind of nasty. Frankly, I wouldn't want to hang out with her, any more than I would like to darn socks by the fire with Miss Darling!
Which left me with Tiger Lily. (And of course, the mermaids. Much as I love them, they are hardly developed enough to really be a fan of - I'm not sure that they even have names! I did side with them on the Wendy issue though...) One woman left to carry the flag for Neverland, and she did not disappoint!
Not only was she brave and free-spirited, but she was a girl with some steel-plated...bravery. Who can forget her calmly and proudly being rowed out to die (by drowning, no less) and refusing to so much as look afraid? This was the girl who stayed up all night dancing by the fire, who was poised and capable and a little bit exotic, and a princess to boot. She is such an under appreciated part of the Pan mythology, and I would be doing backflips about her inclusion in Pan if only she wasn't white.
I mean, really. There are few enough opportunities for Native actors, especially within comic books and fairy tales. Choosing to take tribal royalty and cast Rooney Mara is an appalling move. Unless there is some really, truly, absolutely-no-way-around-it reason for this, I'm unimpressed. (And we know that she isn't Pan's mother, so I can't really think of a reason that good.)
As well as just being a slap in the face to Native actors who are now essentially waiting for Disney to make a live-action Pocahontas to even have a shot at a "fairy tale" role, I really don't think that it looks good.
Just look at her. Take a good long look at our new Tiger Lily, and tell me what you see.
Because I don't see a proud tribal princess. I don't see a warrior princess, capable of sneaking up on you in the night without a sound. I see a trust fund babe at a music festival. I'm all for bright colors and visual feasts (and from the trailer, it seems like the tribal scenes will have a LOT of that), but I just can't get the recent hair-feathering trend out of my head. Not to mention that with her delicate features, she looks a little more terrified than terrifying so far. Sigh.
Of course, there is still hope. Clearly, the tribal aspect is going to be huge in this adaptation, which is awesome, and hopefully the entire community won't be whitewashed as well. Perhaps there really is a solid reason for the choice - the pan-pipe necklace was left to him by his mother, so Tiger Lily could be a relative of Peter's (although that throws a lot of their existing relationship into a very strange and dark place).
Still. A favorite (and underused) characters finally gets her big-screen moment, and she's more Lily White than Tiger Lily. I can't help but be frustrated.