Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers - Mary is so narcissistic, peevish, and self-absorbed that the only possible explanation of the children’s affection for her is that they’re pathologically neglected by their parents. Yes, Mary can do magic, and magic is cool, but (superheroes, please take note), being able to do nifty tricks doesn’t give you free license to be a complete jerk. Mary, as portrayed in the sweeter Disney version Travers famously hated, is so much better (though the movie’s implication that a woman in favor of equal rights is unfit to be a mother is another issue…)
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie - A privileged, immature boy’s dream of the universe revolving around him, where everyone in the world exists merely to gratify his ego. Females in Peter Pan’s world especially are permitted only in roles that serve his precious man-ego (more here). Ditto the comment above that being able to take people to magical new places doesn’t mean you have the right to be a self-centered jerk about it. Plus Tinkerbell is a homicidally jealous psycho. I never found that as adorable as Disney apparently did.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams - As a child I had a stuffed Panda for whom I cared very lovingly, and I deeply resented the implication that because when he lost an eye I carefully sewed on a new one, it somehow meant I didn’t love him as much as if I’d abused him. Do we really think it’s sweet to teach our children that being abused proves how much they’re loved, and that they should gratefully submit to every abuse in the hope of a better hereafter? I don’t. When you truly love something, whether it’s a toy or a living thing, you take care of it.
So that’s my curmudgeonly rant for today, and now it’s time to go read something enjoyable.
[Pictures: “Mary Poppins admiring her reflection in a shop window,” illustration by Mary Shephard from Mary Poppins Comes Back, 1935;
“Max bent on mischief,” illustration by Maurice Sendak from Where the Wild Things Are, 1963.]