The live performance of Peter Pan on NBC won’t have the song “Ugg a Wugg” in it.
I think we can all agree that there are scenes in popular movies and plays from decades ago that cause us to say, wow, that is not gonna fly these days.
But is “Ugg a Wugg” really in that category? “Ugg a Wugg” is the song that Peter Pan sings with the “Indian” girl Tiger Lily. It’s about counting on each other. It has lyrics that children would make up and is a nonsense friendship song. Not only is it not about Native Americans, but the mythical tribe it so positively portrays allows the play to introduce themes of bonding amongst diverse groups, equality between the sexes, and brotherhood across racial identity.
Tiger Lily and her tribe are not Native Americans. They live in a made-up place: Neverland. How do you get there? Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning. That is not an actual place. Google Map it — it won’t come up.
“Ugg a Wugg” comes after Tiger Lily saves Peter Pan and they sing about their friendship. It is never pointed out that she is the head of her tribe and is a girl. They are equals, true blood brothers ’til the end. They will send for each other if they get in trouble.
They also say “ibbity bibbity sabb” and “willy nilly lilly” and “gug a bluck” and “ubble bubble” and “puffawuff pow!”
Then the boys and the tribe celebrate by smoking a peace pipe. OMG smoking!! Are you kidding me!? What kind of fake politically incorrect island is this?
The producers of the live-TV event hired a Native American consultant to fix this number that didn’t need any fixing. He recommended a Native American composer to make the content more appropriate and authentic to Native American traditions and experience. The irony is that now it is about Native Americans while before it was just about made-up childhood characters.
To be consistent, we should look at all the issues in this show:
Ageism: Peter Pan does not want to grow up and is unabashedly vocal about it.
Poor parenting: Mr. and Mrs. Darling leave their tots at home at night with a dog for a babysitter, which constitutes not only abandonment but cruelty to animals.
Violence: On the fake island of Neverland, pirates try to poison the Lost Boys and kill children with swords.
Climate and substance abuse: The drunken pirates aboard the Jolly Roger may be polluting the imaginary waterways. Hello, Greenpeace?
Medical malpractice: Fairies can be brought back to life with clapping. Really?
Unless we are also going to advocate for homeless orphans, disabled captains, maligned reptiles, and anyone who grew up, went to school, and is working, it seems like this “Ugg a Wugg” decision was made willy nilly. Ugh.