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Cultural appropriation in ‘Peter Pan’ perpetuates stereotypes

By Amanda Ehrmann

Section: Opinions

September 11, 2015

“Peter Pan” is classic and cute, and it is easy to see it as just that. But “Peter Pan” has some dark undertones relating to the portrayal of Native Americans. Doing a show without thinking or talking to the cast and production staff about the racist implications of the show is thoughtless. Yes, we still read books like “Huckleberry Finn” in classes to understand and acknowledge the racism in the time it was written, but using white actors to perform songs that falsely represent and inaccurately portray Native American customs turns into cultural appropriation.

Although a fun musical, “Peter Pan” was not the right choice for the 24-Hour Musical, where no one has enough time to use the piece to make a statement or have intelligent conversations about its implications. One of the main contributors to the misrepresentations is the song “Ugg-A-Wugg,” which translates to complete gibberish in any Native American language. There have been wonderful revisions of the song “Ugg-A-Wugg,” which change the lyrics to honor Native American cultures and languages (and are even better when performed by Native American actors), which makes the song more authentic. Other attempts to honor Native American cultures have included using Native American dancers to choreograph the number.

The 24-Hour Musical production staff could not change the lyrics of the song because the rights prohibit them from doing so. So, why pick “Peter Pan” in the first place? The 24-Hour Musical is the perfect outlet for new students to meet people involved in the arts and participate in wonderful artistic collaboration. However, the arts should be an outlet for social change, rather than a means of reinforcing stereotypes. Picking “Peter Pan” for this year’s 24-Hour Musical was a serious lapse in judgment.

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