There have already been plenty of think pieces about Milo Yiannopoulos, the Trump-supporting professional provocateur and banned Twitter troll who finally took it too far with his comments about “cross-generational relationships.”
His foul statements about women, African-Americans, Muslims, gay and transgender people, immigrants, and fat people were fine with his audience at the hate-spreading site Breitbart, winning him a campus speaking tour and a $250,000 book contract from Simon & Schuster. It took the word “pedophilia” for Milo to lose it all: The speaking gigs, the book, and even the Breitbart platform that made him infamous. The interview in which the topic came up took place last year, but the Washington Post reported that the interview re-emerged over the weekend with the help of a group called the Reagan Battalion, which “was among those calling attention to the interview to highlight its opposition to Yiannopoulos’s speaking role at the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the Washington area.”
There will be more think pieces to come, but they will have to be pretty spectacular to top Laurie Penny’s story for Pacific Standard, called “On the Milo Bus With the Lost Boys of America’s New Right.” I was fascinated by her analysis of Yiannopoulos; the immature and hurt young men who support him; and the hypocrisy of the far-right’s free-speech demands. About the latter, she wrote:
“This was never, in fact, about free speech at all. It was about making it OK to say racist, sexist, transphobic, and xenophobic things, about tolerating the public expression of those views right up to the point where it becomes financially unwise to do so.”
But it was her comparison of Milo and his acolytes to Peter Pan and his Lost Boys that sent me down the Internet’s rabbit hole, if you’ll pardon me for mixing references to books by men with an unnerving interest in children. As Penny points out, J.M. Barrie’s original text for Peter Pan is much darker than the Disney version. One sentence, which can be interpreted as saying that Peter kills the Lost Boys when they get too old, has drawn the most attention online:
“The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two.”
But that’s not the only grim part of Barrie’s book. Jeremiah Kleckner — the author of a revisionist fiction called Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan — lists numerous other examples in a 2015 post. And that post wound up leading me to numerous articles about the creepy true story of Barrie’s Lost Boys — the orphaned brothers he took charge of, one of whom, of course, was named Peter. (The real Peter was in his 60s when he committed suicide.) I’d read about the boys before but I became fascinated all over again due to the Pan references in Penny’s essay.
Icky trivia: The name Wendy was occasionally used before Peter Pan, but it was Barrie’s put-upon Wendy Darling character who popularized it.
UPDATED TO ADD: Dave Holmes’s “Forgetting Milo” essay for Esquire is worth reading too.